Musing on Being American

What kind of a Muslim would blow himself up in a crowd? A misguided one, many Muslims, including nearly every Muslim friend or acquaintance of mine from around he world. What kind of resident or citizen of the United States would protest the construction of a mosque? A majority of Americans, I sorely want to believe, would also answer, a misguided one.

The protesters do, and should, have the right to protest whatever they want – just as Muslims, Christians, or Jews have the right to practice religion in whatever way they choose. However, fear, even hatred, of the changing demographics of the United States, its flows of immigrants, its changing culture, is a betrayal of a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be an American. Our country’s relatively brief history is nothing if not a continuing string of dramatic inflows of people and ideas, and often irrational and violent reactions to them. However, the history of America is also the story of a nation’s ever growing understanding of its own diversity and the drive to not only accept but nurture it.

A true American knows his or her country’s true comparative advantage in a global world is its diversity and its nature as a place where people from every corner of the globe can arrive and know that they have access to the same rights and opportunities as every other person.

A recent taxi ride, the driver being a Somali immigrant, made me more proud to be an American than I have ever been before. “Here, I have rights. I know what my rights are, and there are consequences if people try to deny me my rights. In Africa, and many countries, you might be thrown in jail for no reason, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Musings inspired by a front page article in the Sunday NewYork Times,

Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition

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