We've seen this before. It's become an old hat in this nation – a comfortable and ugly hat that we put on over-and-over again, even when we see how ridiculous it is in the mirror.
We tore Americans from their homes and sent them to internment camps because their families came from Japan, and we look back in shock and disgust. We watched Joseph McCarthy destroy the lives of innocent Americans over fabricated accusations of treason, and we look back in shock and disgust.
Now our government puts the hat back on, and it's still as comfortable as ever. We now see American citizens fighting for the right to be Americans. Not in a sense of literal citizenship, but in true American spirit. We now see them being cast as the "other," trying to defend themselves against charges of "terrorism" and "extremism."
We see our government again dividing us rather than bringing us together, and we see the consequences it has. We see Americans having to justify building a house of worship because of the actions of non-American fundamentalists. We've recently seen a Sikh man killed because he was mistaken for a Muslim. This dividing of people, casting them out as the "other," has a serious affect on not only our discourse, but on the real lives of American citizens as well.
On March 10, the House Committee on Homeland Security, led by Republican representative Peter King, held hearings on "Islamic Extremism." It's easy to see how this so-called "investigation" into radicalization is a sham simply by the title. King titled his farce "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response." From the outset, the House has rigged the game.
The committee has already deemed Muslims guilty and wants show the world just how guilty they are. These people are Americans, and they deserve the respect that every American is afforded. Being Muslim is not the same as being a terrorist, but apparently the Republican-controlled House disagrees.
In the wake of these hearings, conservative commentators like Sean Hannity often ask why the Muslim community would object to them if they have nothing to hide. This question, however, is the ultimate affront to our system. In America we aren't supposed to believe in guilt by association. We are embedded with a sense of wonder at our justice system. We love to quote the sacred maxim "innocent until proven guilty," without actually practicing its sacred power.
Worse, still, is the effect that this propaganda is having on the discourse of recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Glenn Beck has called them a "threat to the U.S. way of life," and many others have urged "caution," believing that they will be set up by radicalized Muslims. The situation has degraded to the point that we are now arguing about whether or not Muslims can set up a government without it being an Islamic fundamentalist government. This is bigotry in full force.
Apparently only some of us hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Apparently some of us have to justify ourselves to a group of power-hungry white men as to why we all deserve to be Americans on an equal capacity with every other American, rich or poor, black or white, Muslim or Christian.
This is McCarthyism all over again, and as we watch our fellow Americans toil under the crushing weight of propaganda that demeans them as citizens, we must ask ourselves if we will stand for this. Will we stand as the rights of our fellow countrymen are called into question? Speak out against all forms of hate, whether it is against Muslims, gays, or anyone. Speak out against a government that, in its infinite desire to retain control, will destroy people who are easy targets.