I wonder sometimes if people just want everything to be bad, or if maybe they simply enjoy being angry all the time. Facebook is a fascinating picture into the thinking of some people on all sides of the religious and political spectrum. On a regular basis I find people decrying non-existent outrageous, convinced that children are no longer saying the pledge of allegiance in school, that “In God We Trust” is being removed from coins. The Koch brothers are conspiring to take over the country and turn it into a place where women and minorities are oppressed. The Koch brothers are libertarians, which means their goal would be to try to make everyone leave everyone alone and mind their own business. Others are certain that their rights to speech or religion are being stomped upon or that their favorite television program is going to be stripped from the airwaves because something in it offended someone.
The reality is that the pledge of allegiance is mandated by most states; the small handful that don’t have those laws—and most of those states are in the South (California, New York and Massachusetts, for instance, require that the pledge be given every morning in schools up through high school).
In God We Trust is required to be placed on currency by law—laws passed by the Congress of the United States and upheld by the Supreme Court. It isn’t going anywhere and guess what: if it did, you’d hear about it in the news, not in some meme posted on Facebook.
You can believe there is a war on Christmas when your church doors are locked shut on Sunday morning and the stores aren’t selling Christmas decorations earlier and earlier each year. It’s not even Thanksgiving and I already see Christmas stuff in my local Walmart, Target, and Costco. I have no trouble finding Christmas cards and the postal service very happily sells Christmas stamps each year. The only problem we ever have with Christmas cards is actually getting around to sending them out in a timely fashion.
Sharia law is not going to descend upon the United States nor do I see it as a particular danger to worry about. Last time I was on a high school campus I didn’t see one young woman dressed in a burka. Quite the opposite in fact. If our current president is a closet Muslim, he’s the worst Muslim in history: he drinks beer and loves bacon. And have you seen the way his wife and daughters dress?
Yes, there are racists, yes there are misogynistic people, and yes there are all manner of evil people. Are there people who would like to take away your guns, your freedoms, your bacon? Of course. Are they the majority? Are they anything more than fringe? Yes, some of them write for newspapers, yes some of them are college professors. My middle daughter hates one of her professors because he has odd views regarding the subject she is taking and she doesn’t like his political point of view. But he is not the only one teaching that subject and there are other professors who are not so weird. In fact, she wishes she had the professor that her long-time boyfriend has; the only reason she has the professor she hates is because the other time period conflicted with a course in her major.
In life, we will be bombarded by things from people who don’t agree with us. Some of those people will be, to put it charitably, raving lunatics who believe that anyone who disagrees with them is not just wrong but also evil. Some folk just can’t abide a difference of opinion. They don’t want to get along. They don’t want to just live their own lives; they feel that part of their mission is to run yours. Thankfully, most people are not like that.
The wonderful thing about living in a vibrant, free country is that there is so much yelling and disagreeing. Freedom is messy and people post things on Facebook that are stupid. Freedom means people can believe things that aren’t so and they can try to convince you that they are. One bit of comfort: if Sharia law were descending, if our freedoms were being taken away, if the country really was turning into a totalitarian dictatorship, then we wouldn’t know about it, would we? Every time someone tries to shut down a political rally, every time someone tries to infringe on anyone’s rights, anytime anything happens, we hear about it right away and everyone starts yelling and arguing about it. That there is so much noise, so much anger, so much blathering and so much—too much—nonsense is evidence that things really are okay. When I look back at the newspapers and letters of the past, decade after decade: the fifties, the forties, the sixties, of the twentieth century, nineteenth century and earlier in this country, I see the same sorts of things, the same sorts of fears, the same sorts of arguments over and over again.
The noise and the mess and the arguing are the clearest indication that everything is still okay.