According to the FBI’s database of Hate Crime Statistics, in 2010 (the latest year for which numbers are available) there were 160 hate crime incidents involving anti-Islamic bias in the United States. Such incidents have seen a marked rise following the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001 and have recently made headlineswith various incidents around the country, ranging from arson attacks on mosques to pig parts being thrown at the site of a proposed Islamic center.
A tribal shaman was once interviewed by a skeptical anthropologist and asked whether or not he actually believed in the truths behind the spiritual medicine he practiced. The shaman’s reply was surprisingly candid, for he admitted that his technique was completely fraudulent, and yet he still defended it for the simple reason that it often seemed to heal the patients. This brief exchange cuts to the core of the issue of why some people are religious and others are not. It all boils down to two simple questions – “Is it true?” and “Is it good?”
The events of September 11th, 2001 are arguably the worst thing that has ever happened to America – worse even than Pearl Harbor – but not for the reasons you might expect. What makes them worse is the grand irony that’s been piled on top of the insult and injury; ten years later, it’s now clear that the biggest blow we received that day was neither the loss of innocence nor the loss of life but rather the government’s hysterical reaction to it all, spearheaded by the Neocons and other fear-mongers of the Far Right. This has done far more to destroy our civil liberties and way of life than anything the terrorists ever accomplished on their own.
It is a well-known quirk of human nature that when things go well in life, people often try to find someone to whom they can express their thanks. When things go badly, they look equally for someone to blame. And if there is no one to thank, or no one to blame, then they make someone up. Plentiful harvest this year? – thank God. Healthy children? – God. Won the lottery? Survived a plane crash? Scored a touchdown…? – God.
When it comes to misfortune, however, people tend to get a bit cagey, as they’re not so eager to point the finger at the almighty creator and master of the universe. Hit by lightning? – “Unlucky, my friend.” Killed in a plane crash? – “It must have been his time to go.” Diagnosed with terminal cancer? – “God works in mysterious ways.”
America today is facing a crisis of liberty perhaps more profound than even that faced in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. On one hand are the continuing militarization of civilian police forces and the steady erosion of civil liberties embodied by the Patriot Act, the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, and the just-passed National Defense Authorization Act. In addition to trashing the protections of the Bill of Rights, these laws authorize and promote the sale of surplus military hardware (including grenade launchers and armored personnel carriers) to civilian police departments nationwide – the vast majority of which is being used, not to combat terror, but rather in enforcing the over-thirty-year-old and increasingly futile War on Drugs.