The weather was a balmy 75 degrees as the afternoon waned towards the close of another pristine day in Yorba Linda, California. Families slowly made their way from their cars, kids in tow, to attend an Islamic Circle of North America fundraiser meant to help combat homelessness and hunger.
These families were met by a group of their neighbors waving American flags. But instead of hearing words in support of their charitable efforts, these American families heard chants of “terrorists go home.”
You see, these families had committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of the hyper-conservative “Real American” brigade; they dared to be Muslim in America.
American families that work, pay taxes, and attend community events were met by their fellow citizens in a revolting show of hatred and bigotry. Young children were forced to listen as their parents were berated and demonized for their national origin and choice of religion.
“Stupid terrorists, go home, go home, go home,” called out one protester. “Terrorist lovers - your hands are bloody,” chimed in another. “You beat your wife too? Are you a molester?” asked yet another.
What made matters worse is that these reprehensible acts were given credibility and support by local elected officials.
Deborah Park, a city council member for Villa Park and the Vice-Chair of the Orange County GOP, described the charity fundraiser as “pure, unadulterated evil.” She went on to say that she knew “quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.”
Joining Ms. Park was Representative Gary Miller, who said to the crowd, “I am proud of you, I am proud of what you're doing. I am proud of this country and what we believe in, and let's not let people who disagree destroy it.”
When did we go so far off the rails? When did a headscarf become synonymous with Bin Laden worship? When did it become an American value to express one’s views via vitriolic hate targeted at fellow citizens? Most importantly, when did it become acceptable for an elected official to call for the death of citizens they may well have been elected to represent?
We are barely 65 years removed from a time when we imprisoned American citizens based on their nationality, declaring that even those who had served proudly in the military could not be trusted due to the innate character of their blood. It has been less than two generations since we turned fire hoses and let loose dogs on African-Americans because they dared to request equal treatment and to not be judged based on the color of their skin.
What occurred on February 13th outside that community center in Yorba Linda was an ugly reminder that we, as a society, have a long way to go before we espouse the ideals we intend to share with the world.
This sort of hatred and bigotry has no place in a civilized society, much less one that purports to respect the freedoms of religion, speech, and association.
Many of the chest-thumping jingoists that spent their Sunday yelling at Muslim-American families claim (inaccurately) that no Muslims can be trusted because they do not denounce Muslim extremism.
What about the silence of Americans that let monsters like these speak out on our behalf while wrapped in our flag? We cannot, and must not, stand silently by while the shrillest and most hateful voices in our community declare bigotry and prejudice as American values.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons