[If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.]
I grabbed my laptop, a hot cup of coffee, and sat on the porch before waking the family for church. A few minutes later my eyes were all red and puffy! Why do people send me these e-mails? A good American would, of course, forward this e-mail on to her whole address book, or so the e-mail leads the reader to believe. I don’t usually cry when I read these, but I’ve had enough! I love the United States of America: her ideals and her people. I love that I’ve raised a son who could have secured scholarships to just about any university in the country and instead he chose the expensive school. No, not financially expensive. Expensive because it may cost him his very life. He chose to serve to protect my freedom and the freedom of my fellow countrymen who send me these emails. I don’t think that kind of patriotism happens by accident.
These e-mails appear in my inbox several times a week. Too often. In frustration I draft responses in my head while I run or I get worked up and vent to Ken and the kids. Ken makes a logical suggestion: just ignore them, you know, don’t read them?
It’s a lot like driving by a car wreck. I don’t want to look, I feel like I shouldn’t slow down and look, I should just keep my eyes on the road ahead, but ugh, I can’t help it . . . I slow down . . . I look. Even if I didn’t read the e-mail, I’d know it was there. The subject line is telling enough.
This particular Sunday morning’s e-mail suggested preparation, so as I read I looked for the preparation requested of the reader. I didn’t find any overt helpful preparation suggested. I replied sharing what I saw, namely a call to fear and hate, and I asked the sender of this forwarded e-mail what preparation or action one should take. I didn’t get a direct response to my question, (because there wasn’t any actual preparation suggested!) just another forwarded e-mail about the same sort of thing. There is a common theme in all the emails: we should be afraid and hate. Fear. Hate.
I determine that I’m the only person on earth who is bothered by this sort of thing. I must be since the e-mail has travelled through so many other inboxes and been deemed worthy of forwarding. I don’t get rebuttals to these e-mails in my inbox; it’s a one-way conversation. When I send a question or a rebuttal myself I’m faced with hostility, anger, or silence. I must be alone. Why does it bother me? Is it really a big deal anyway?
One of my children recently did a geography presentation on the genocide in Rwanda. I tried to help him understand the horror of what happened in 1994 on the other side of the world. There are explanations about how this kind of evil and murder happened. The explanations are very uncomfortable to think about since the hatred that resulted in the murder of over a million people was brought to Rwanda by missionaries (Christians) and colonists (the West). “What we are suggesting is that a racist church was planted in Rwanda by both the Colonialists and some missionaries” (Kolini 36). In his book Christ Walks Where Evil Reigned: Responding to the Rwandan Genocide retired Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini continues, “In Rwanda it was a learned racism, a hate that was taught in an imaginary ethnic divide in order to justify prejudice against the Tutsi, treating them as foreigners so Hutu were allowed to hate them” (Kolini 37). Before the genocide actually took place, the hate was spread for years – and specifically for months and months over radio and television. I wonder if it would have been easier to give everyone computers and send the messages of hate to his or her e-mail inboxes?
It’s not just e-mail, though. I’ve attended churches that had pastors and lay people preach fear and hate from the pulpit, heard it from newscasters, read it in links on Facebook, it’s present in the forensics realm, and my children have inadvertently picked up the message from on-line tutors. The messages usually have to do with Middle Eastern people, Muslim people, immigrants, foreigners, and minorities. Some of the messages come right out and tell listeners to be afraid, but most of them purport to pass on facts and let the fear sink in on its own. These “facts” are usually accepted since stereotypes are so entrenched in hearts and minds.
This hate and fear has a broad scope. That’s how stereotypes work. It doesn’t matter what a person actually believes or how a person actually lives, that person is categorized by you and your stereotype of them. How can you not be afraid if you see life through the lens of the stereotype you perpetuate? It doesn’t matter if people are this or they are that. You’ve already decided!
Why does it bother me? Is it a big deal anyway? The forwarder has a right to his or her opinion. I could just hit delete and dismiss the email and the sender as ignorant (which is not the same as stupid) and xenophobic. So what? I can’t change anything.
For me, it is a big deal.
My history and my faith are such that if I truly identify with them I can’t help but be bothered. We all have a story. We all come from someplace. When I reflect I can see clearly why the stereotyping and racism bothers me so much.
To be continued.