No "U" in Team

This weekend I walked down Steinway, in Astoria. The area has a large Muslim community and I thought about this great interview of Millennial Muslims I had seen on the CBS Evening News.

I often ponder the merits of religion. Without reviewing all the obvious pros and cons, the aspect I want to discuss here is the deceptively dangerous positive: a sense of belonging. This feeling of community that religion provides, can come from other sources as well, such as nationalism. For a few more weeks, before I move to California, I remain an Astorian, along with those Muslims on Steinway. I enjoy the pride that comes from belonging to this community of amazing people. There are myriad other ways to group people, but that same action of combining-together has an opposite, divisive effect.

I am "proud to be an American", and I love my home state, Arizona. That does not mean I love what my government does all the time, or the type of questionable bills and laws my state has become synonymous with in recent years. Much as I'm sure many rational, moderate, fiscally conservative Republicans must feel about the Huckabees and Trumps of their party, I resent when my state is written off as ignorant or backwards. As an alum, the University of Arizona, another group I draw strength from belonging to, has an amazing science department, and plenty of artistic, progressive students and professors. When I think of Arizona, those are the people who come to my mind, and I see the gap between the two views as analogous to members of a religion being blamed for the actions of individuals under such an impossibly large large umbrella as "Muslims".

When tested by adversity, the comfort of belonging can quickly turn into cutting off or pushing away "the other". Leaders of every religion have a moral obligation to teach their parishioners of this danger and urge them away from it. To encourage protecting one group of strangers over another, as Jeb Bush suggested when he said America should only let in Christian, Syrian refugees, should automatically disqualify him from the presidential race. Comments like that demonstrate an inability to take an office sworn to uphold a constitution that explicitly forbids favoring one religious group over another, just the way the CIA would never hire hire someone who confesses, "I can never keep a secret." Similarly, Bush and others who echoed him, should be publicly admonished by Christian leaders for saying something so utterly out of line with their teachings. "But that's none of my business", as the internet is fond of saying.

I'll leave you with one more great piece of TV I just saw. Mandy Patinkin used his promotional time on Stephen Colbert's Late Show, to speak out against the fear-mongering and divisive attitude that currently exists in America, and it really is quite spectacular and well-articulated. I hope you watch it.


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