Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sigh 3

I have been on vacation. For part of it, I was so completely off the grid I couldn't even use my cell phone, let alone check LJ, so I've spent a good part of today catching up on news, gossip, scandals, etc., including the Sanders rejection letter scandal (and if you're also catching up, you can find the complete text of the letter here.)

The author noted in a discussion of the rejection letter that the story was told from the point of view of a terrorist, not an ordinary Muslim, and thus "those people" probably refers to terrorists, rather than Muslims in general. But this argument goes down in flames rather abruptly with the addition of the "sheet heads" comment. It's damn clear that Sanders is not talking about terrorists there, but Muslims in general. And even if he were only calling terrorists "sheet heads," rather than Muslims in general, it would still not be okay, any more than it would be okay to call them "sand n*****s."

Personally, I have no particular objection to vilifying terrorists or even garden-variety non-bomb-throwing extremists, whether we're talking about the Muslim kind like Al Qaeda or the Christian kind like the KKK. But you need to do it in a way that is not vicious towards the vast majority of ordinary, decent Muslims (if you're vilifying Muslim extremists) or Christians (if you're vilifying Christian extremists) (or Hindus, if you're vilifying Hindu extremists, or Jews if you're vilifying Jewish extremists... it's not as if there's any religious group out there that's exempt from attracting scary assholes.) Sanders made it depressingly clear that he is a bit hazy on the difference between Osama bin Laden and, say, my representative to the U.S. House.

I live in Minneapolis, which has a substantial Muslim minority these days. My daughter's school is about 10% Muslim. I come into contact with Muslims every day, and they are hard-working, decent, ordinary people. The last time I worked on a political campaign, back in 2001, there were Somali campaign volunteers who were not yet able to vote because they had not been here long enough to become citizens, but who volunteered on the campaign because they were so excited about participating in democracy that they couldn't wait. The primary election that year fell on 9/11, and at the victory party that November, I saw an elderly Somali woman wearing both a hijab and a t-shirt with an American flag and the words, WE STAND TOGETHER.

Incidentally, regarding the legality of public posting of rejection letters: lucky for me, satire is protected speech. This was the very first piece I ever sold; I worried that the editors in question (Gordon Van Gelder, Gardner Dozois, and Scott Edelman) would take offense. I'm not sure what Gardner and Scott thought of it, but Gordon Van Gelder sent me a postcard telling me how much he enjoyed it. (I framed it. It's still on my wall.)

No comments: