Jonathan Edelstein is hosting the annual Arrival Day blogburst, celebrating 350 years of Jewish presence in America. I am honored to participate.
I had originally planned to write something about the large role that Jews have played in shaping the immigrant experience, in which I see strong parallels to the Indian-American community to which I belong. But recent events have caused me to shift my focus.
Instead, I want to write about the example set by the Jews in terms of surviving systematic cultural bigotry. It's not unfair to accuse German society circa 1930-1940 of a cultural flaw, one that abetted the systematic scapegoating of Jews for society's ills (of which perhaps the most infamous example is the Dolchsto�legende). Likewise, it's not unfair to accuse modern Arab society of the same malaise, given how strongly anti-Semitism has taken root in those societies. In both cases, the Jew is used as a distraction by the ruling tyranny to distract the public from their own failures, but the willingness of the general public to believe it is a black mark on those cultures.
I fear the same thing may happen to my own American conservative culture. I call myself a cultural conservative, because of my religious convictions. I also call myself a social liberal, because those convictions are voluntary and I draw a distinction between virtue and lack of sin. I claim therefore membership in the culture which I accuse. Not that I do not critique conservatives as individuals, but rather the broader culture itself.
As my many recent posts on the matter have shown, there is a rising tide of anti-muslim sentiment in this country since 9-11. In many ways, it is worse now than immediately after the attacks. But the Cowboys incident is different because it was a mass event, not an individual one.
If the war on Terror drifts too far from the immediate goal of removing threats to our nation and ends up fulfilling Osama bin Laden's desire for a true clash of civilizations, then I fear that this tide may manifest into something more threatening than being booed at a football game. The process by which this occurs is a slow one. But it can be inexorable if it is not recognized. Note that it has happenned before - the internment of Japanese Americans is a black mark on our history that even today, polemicists within the conservative culture are seeking to rationalize, with an explicit eye towards today's conflicts.
America is not today comparable to pre-war Germany or to the Arab world. I can state that unequivocally. But the lesson that the Jewish people have to teach my community is that things change. The wise course of action for American m,uslims is to seek American Jews out and forge strong bonds with them, so that together they are stronger. Organizations like CAIR need to find a way to work together with the ADL and the NAACP to ensure that ethnic and religious divisions do not impede the common interest. And ultimately, it has to be our shared identity as Americans that we rely on to defend against the encroaching hate.