Stemming the tide of intolerance
Lately the vitriol of anti-Muslim demagogues and anti-immigrant voices has sunk to new depths. Opponents of immigration reform are advocating repeal of birthright citizenship for children of immigrants who are here illegally, and demeaning these children as “anchor babies.” In addition to intolerant rhetoric about the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, Muslims are facing a rising tide of bigoted opposition in communities across the country. As Matt Yglesias pointed out yesterday, these two developments are directly linked. Throughout history, he reminds us, economic downturns have led to xenophobia. However, that doesn’t mean economic recovery will lead us out of this political climate. Yglesias argues:
… The economic roots of our summer of fear will hopefully prove transitory, but the rise in xenophobia may nonetheless inflict serious and permanent damage. A betrayal, even a fleeting one, of America’s commitment to religious freedom could do lasting harm to the country’s relationship with a billion Muslims around the world. And while altering the text of the 14th Amendment would be extremely difficult, and is therefore unlikely, the shouting matches now underway still stand to permanently scar our national identity.
Clergy calling for civility and compassion in communities across the country are uniquely positioned to ensure that this damage halts and heals.