Garrett Baer responds to Nicholas D. Kristof's NYT article “Is This America?” in Killing the Buddha:
Unfortunately, contemporary Islamophobia is not a stain against the otherwise spotless canvas of American history. If anything, that canvas is filthy and should be acknowledged as such. This, Mr. Kristof, is America: land of the screed, home of the enraged.
Rather than viewing the “shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe” as rare, exceptional tests in American history, we need to view those events as constitutive elements of the American experience. Was America not American prior to the abolishing of slavery? Was America not American prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, during the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, the Zoot Suit Riots, or the pursuit of Manifest Destiny? Anti-miscegenation laws were belatedly toppled in the ’60s, but today 37% of Americans would not approve of a family member marrying outside of his or her race. Are those people not American?
Although responses from Christian organizations have been overwhelmingly against Pastor Terry Jones’ proposal to burn Qur’ans—the World Evangelical Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Vatican, the Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints, etc., etc.—the characterization of Jones as a fringe extremist reflecting little upon the values of America as a whole is highly questionable.
Consider a recent survey of American Protestant pastors, ministers, and priests. When asked to identify with either George Bush’s statement that “the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion” or Franklin Graham’s controversial 2001 remark that Islam is “a very evil and a very wicked religion,” 47% of the respondents were on the side of Graham, 12% agreed with both, and only 24% agreed with Bush.
Maybe we need to redefine the fringe?