Being an American in Canada has some definite benefits.
The newspapers and television are not the American media 24/7. Oh sure, I can turn on CNN, or MSNBC, or even Fox if I have the stomach to stand it, but I rarely do so. The noise that is created by these media outlets bothers me and I can usually only sit through about 45 minutes of the Sunday morning talk shows before my blood pressure rises and I can take it no longer.
That is not to say, however, that we are not politically active and aware. Terrance and I maintain our perfect voting records (Every election since 1988, baby!). When Terrance missed his window to have the absentee ballot sent during the last presidential election, he DROVE back to our town in New Hampshire to cast his ballot on election day. My ballot had been cast in October, so I did not have to do the ten hour marathon drive.
I was in New York City last weekend. Because I now live in Montreal, I look at cities differently. The assortment of faces and skin tones and religious beliefs barely register for me anymore. At McGill, I have students from every walk of life, every corner of the globe, who practice every variation of every religion in the world. I have female students who wear the traditional head scarf in both Jewish And Muslim religions. I have male students who wear yalmulkes as well as the kufi. They are no different. They are all undergraduates at McGill. I smile at everyone in New York - a symptom of being in Canada. I can't help but just be polite and maintain eye contact after four years here. I smile and wave at the food vendor on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. as he pours charcoal into his cart to start it up for his noon lunch patron. I am waiting for my shuttle to take me to the airport and he is getting ready for another day.
From my distance, I watch this morning as the press explodes with outrage that President Obama would support a mosque being built in the same neighborhood as the former World Trade Center.
But why wouldn't he? As Americans do we get dictate where people can live, or practice religious beliefs? Are Muslims not part of our American heritage and fabric?
Fear is a terrible thing. Fear being used to manipulate people is a disgusting and reprehensible thing.
I would have hoped that we were beyond the days when we felt we had the right to tell anyone where they could build a mosque, or a church, or a temple. I had hoped we were beyond the days when the cry of "respect for one segment" equaled blatant disrespect of another. And spare me that "victims of 9/11" bullshit. There were no victims who were Muslims? No firefighters or police who were Muslims? Please.
Part of the great story of America is religious freedom. Did we not learn that at the knees of our grade school teachers? The Pilgrims? The Huguenots? A place where they we free to practice their religion without fear of persecution....or does that just apply to Christian based religions? I'm pretty sure there is no caveat in the Bill of Rights....no matter how many people want to scream that the founders MEANT Christianity....they didn't.
There is no profile for murderers. People who want to murder other people will do so, whether they fly a plan into buildings, or blow up a building with a truck bomb, or shoot a bunch of people at a pre-wedding dinner, or beat their wife or child to death. It has nothing to do with someone's religious beliefs, or lack thereof.
Terrorists intend to foster terror. Suspicion and Paranoia. Distrust when there is no basis. My president today said no to those things. He asserted that every American has a right to every piece of this country. There are no limits to where people can live or worship. (And someday, in my lifetime, there will be no limits as to who someone can marry - fingers crossed)
He told the fear-mongers both in America AND Abroad that we, as a Nation, are Bigger than that. That you can knock us down, but in the immortal words of the poets Chumbawumba, "we get up again". An act of hate should not bring more hate and intolerance. America must prove that we are not who "they" think we are, regardless of what "they" have been taught. The best way I know how to do that is through deed, and not words.