When I heard that my town clerk, Taylor White, posted vitriolic comments targeting Muslims on social media, I had to send a message to my Muslim neighbors: I am here. Yes, Muslims, upright United States citizens, live right here in Sandwich. They are business owners, doctors, professionals and laborers. They have families and face the same joys and challenges that you and I do in raising a family. But they face a greater challenge, an ugly underbelly that Mr. White’s bigoted remarks brought to the surface. He would have us think that he was joking. Were the Nazis joking about Jewish citizens before they came to power in Germany (and elsewhere)? Mr. White stated that “these people need to be taught a lesson.” What lesson is that, Mr. White? I think Mr. White needs to be taught some lessons. Here they are…
Lesson 1) “Laissez Faire.” According to capitalism, no government should interfere in business. If a business decides to take a sign down because they believe it offends certain customers, or Chick-fill-A wants to have an Appreciation Day celebrating its definition of marriage, it has the right to do so, if you adhere to capitalism. Don’t like what a business does? Then either don’t solicit that business, or you can stage a Constitutionally protected protest. Simple, and very capitalist.
Lesson 2) The Constitution & the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Citizens of the United States have the right to practice any religion without fear that others, especially elected leaders, are going to “irritate” or harass them. Mr. White exercised his freedom of speech, but he should expect a response by other people exercising their right to free speech. As the person in charge of our elections, the town clerk should proudly stand by the words of the Constitution.
Lesson 3) Generalizations. The KKK did not and does not represent all Southern Baptists or Christians, ISIS does not represent all of Islam, and Father Geoghan does not represent all Catholic priests. When people generalize, all priests are pedophiles, all white Christians are racist, and all Muslims are terrorists.
Lesson 4) The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Pretty simple; it is broadly taught around the world; although reworded, it is the same message. Would Mr. White like it if people were talking about his religion or political party in the same way he was talking about Muslim citizens?
This is a nonpartisan issue. George Bush and Barack Obama proclaimed publicly that Islam is a religion of peace. This issue crosses political lines that both Republicans and Democrats should be upset by, at least any who take their party seriously.
Mr. White has lost the trust of the public and needs to resign. You see Mr. White is similar to the terrorist he hates when he publicly states that September should be dedicated to “offending Muslims” and that “these people need to be taught a lesson.” The language is the same. The only difference is that the terrorist takes action.
What happens if a Muslim boy, girl, woman, or man is attacked as a result of Mr. White’s words? Would Mr. White, as an elected leader, be held responsible for his statements? Would we as a community hold responsibility for not speaking out in support of our Muslim neighbors?
Gary D. Linehan
Edward Kelly Road