I attended a talk in St. Cloud focusing on the link between communism, terrorism, the “radical left” and Islam. After 3 hours of listening to conspiracy theories, fear-mongering, and straight-up hatred, I was mentally exhausted. The circular reasoning that is present at these types of events is mind-bending.
I gathered my belongings to leave and as I walked out, I realized that, in the back of the room, a man was staring at me and stone-cold hatred filled his face. I kept on walking, however, smiled as I came closer to him, and said: “Have a nice night, sir.”
“Not with you here, I won’t”, he growled through his stark white mustache.
“OK then. See ya.”, I said.
“Oh, no. You won’t be seeing me anytime soon”, he called after me as I brushed past him. I continued to walk out the door, eager to get home before my kids went to bed to kiss them goodnight.
The picture to the right pretty much sums up how the night went. Here are few quotes to give you a more in-depth look at what types of ideas are thrown out at these meeting:
“The threat of Islam is real. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and it only takes one to decide you are a heretic…and kill you.”
“You and I are at war in this country with people like the thugs that shut down conservative speakers at college campuses.”
“It is time for us to go on the offensive. It is time for us to go after them. This is war.”
“The enemy is within our borders.”
“Young black kids can’t get jobs because of illegal immigration.”
“Donald Trump will stop crime in the inner city and realign this country’s politics. This is going to bring so much money back to this country – to you. Your grandchildren won’t have to live in your basement anymore.”
“Somali refugees have been brought to St. Cloud on purpose to turn this area from red to blue.”
“Bringing people here that want to kill us because of Sharia law is not the Christian thing to do – it is Satanic.”
“It is your Christian duty to build up the military of this country. We are at war with enemies both foreign and domestic.”
“If you do nothing, your children will live in slavery. What can you do? Go to war with us!”
I wish I had some brilliant words to say about how we combat this extreme way of thinking. I wish there was some big event that I could plan that would rid our area, our nation, even our world of this extreme fear of the other. Truth is, there’s not. Yet, there’s still hope. Hope in the daily work of having calm conversations with our neighbors, asking them to change, pleading with them to open up to their New American neighbors, begging them to take time to listen to people on the other side of the fence.
Today, I plead with you – knowing it is only YOU that can change your heart. Are you afraid of your Muslim neighbor? Decide today to befriend them instead. Are you pissed off at your friend who is a Trump supporter? Ask them out for coffee to listen to why they feel Trump is the answer to the problems that plague our nation. Do you assume the college student you work with is a liberal snowflake because they advocate for acceptance and love? Find out what their hopes and dreams are for the future.
In short – get outside of your comfort zone and choose to listen and love. Believe me, you’ll encounter ideas and people that will shake you to your very core. And that’s a good thing.