To the Editor:
I applaud Matt Esposito’s gesture of solidarity in these highly polarized times; President Bush’s victory is a fact of life, something we need to accept no matter how much some may hate it. As Mark Twain once said, “The people have spoken.” Whether or not one chooses to add that quote’s infamous ending, the election’s over, and we need to move on with our lives. All we can do is continue what we have always done – stand up and make sure the voices of the minorities are heard and considered in the policy-making of the administration.
However, I’m not saying that all liberals need to joyfully and unquestioningly give their support to Bush. After all, criticism of the government and those who run it is an integral part of our right to free speech. To do as Esposito did and call such criticism “anti-conservative hate speech” is ridiculous. Every leader is a victim of caricatures and exaggeration of his faults at some point during his career; that’s how politics work in a democracy. We Americans should consider ourselves blessed to live in a country where political cartoonists and columnists are not imprisoned for speaking out against the government.
Yes, it is sadly true that many narrow-minded people attack Bush and his supporters solely for their religious beliefs, but for Esposito to make a blanket accusation against the political left of persecuting Christians is completely unacceptable.
It’s no secret that Christians are and always have been by far the religious majority in this country. It’s also no secret that America’s religious minorities tend to be liberals – atheists, pagans, agnostics, and so forth. One of the biggest sources of political and social intolerance in our nation is the clash of ideals between these groups, especially their extremist factions.
Evangelical atheists press their values on those of faith, suing left and right to remove all mention of God from the public sphere, whether civic buildings, the media, or our money. Fundamentalist Christians press their values on the GLBT community and religious minorities who just want to be left in peace, often bluntly telling them that they’ll burn in hell for all eternity if they don’t change their ways and accept God and Jesus into their lives.
Each of these small but vocal extremist groups induces an exceptionally negative reaction in those they attack. This, unfortunately, leads people to do exactly what Esposito did – take the views of the outspoken minority and assume that they reflect the attitude of a whole group.
The Christians look at religious minorities and see a threat by nonbelievers to wipe their faith from society; the religious minorities look at Christians and see the threat of fundamentalist beliefs being codified into federal law, statutes that they feel will be detrimental to their ways of life when all legislation should benefit society as a whole.
Intolerance and discrimination work both ways. It’s time we acknowledge this fact, in the hopes that doing so will help us change it and come together as a nation in these difficult times.