It is not naïve or retrograde to decide to tell a positive story in a world of sad stories, to enter wholeheartedly into a happy family celebration when you don’t share common politics, to rejoice at a wedding when you know the stats on divorce, to attend an expensive funeral to pay respects to a grieving family. Rather I argue that it is kind and human and valuable to join in and share the ups and downs of other people, even while holding a critical appreciation of the big picture. At times, the biggest picture is connecting with others, our basic human need from the time of conception.
And we’re responsible
to choose to be,
fully and simply,
happy or sad,
with and for others,
when the time so calls.
And why this homily at this time?
Muslims Depicted as People Like Others?
An emotional response of revulsion and distress was triggered for me this week by the news story about the Florida Family Assn. and their protest against a learning channel documentary, American Islam. They claim 700,000 supportive e-mails against the doc and a big success when sponsor, Lowe’s Building Supplies, pulled all ads connected to the channel. The film was a human-interest piece about the Muslims who live in Dearborn, Michigan (!) who carry on fairly ordinary family lives and share concerns similar to many Americans. The major objection of the FFA is that the ‘other side’ of the community isn’t depicted. The numbers of serious Muslim terrorists wishing to harm America weren’t depicted, nor the desire to impose Sharia law.
A defense of their position has been published by the FFA on Facebook. The leader is clear that their real beef is with Secular Progressives who are undermining the U.S.A. (Does this open up new categories? Secular Retros? Religious Progressives? Religious Retros?) The documentary, they say, encourages complacency about the danger posed by those who practice Islam. (I’m glad to say that John Stewart has had a good time with it.)
Why Am I So Offended?
I remain appalled. So what is so disturbing?
First is the deep insult to our Muslim brethren who are faithful to the same God of Abraham worshipped by Christian America but who seem required to carry the burden of ignorant blame for extremist actions. Fears about the imposition of Sharia law remind me of the appearance pre-War in Europe of the Protocols of Zion warning about wicked Jewish intentions. Or is this is an old southern form of racism, the breath of the KKK on our necks? Does it not seem like prequels?
Distressing too is the belligerence and fear displayed by people apparently interested in improving the world for their families. What kind of families are they rearing? What kind of world do they want? Are they representative of much of the religious right or just an extreme local version?
What’s Propaganda and Is It Always Suspect?
A more subtle concern was voiced by my husband who opened the question of what is propaganda? Is it any presentation of ideas that doesn’t try to show various sides of a story? Does a writer or film-maker with a point of view, if they want to avoid being accused of propagandizing, have to assume the reader/viewer is ignorant of other aspects of any story (for instance, assume that no one knows there are some Muslim terrorists)? Or is single point-of-view quite okay? Maybe it depends on whether your perspective is the one left out!
I recall National Film Board documentaries being shown once a week at Kensington Elementary School when we sat in the gym and watched East Coast fishermen, northern loggers, Inuit nomads, mining across the country. No disclaimers about the dark side of these industries, or the efforts to squash unions or whatever. But we have changed as our critical consciousness has been encouraged. Now we want news stories to be more ‘balanced’. This is good overall, I think. But is there not a time for suspending that critical view and just enjoy taking something at face value and perhaps adding the critical analysis at another point?
Working Toward a Resolution
And so I arrived at the will to allow myself to suspend critical viewpoints over this holiday and just enjoy the abundant blessings. And let other good times roll, and good attitudes and positive stories, if they come our way. Goodness knows, there will be times when a wider truth can’t be ignored. Or the number of possible good times shrink!
Leonard, bless him, reminded me in song this morning:
May the light in the land of plenty
Shine on the truth someday.