November 21, 2007

Wanderings: A Halloween Scare

... by Walter M. Brasch

[Mary: Although Halloween is over, the message in this piece is a timely one. Enjoy.]

There are a lot of scary things in the world.

There’s the “fun-scary”—kids who dress up as clowns, monsters, or fairy princesses once a year to get a month’s supply of candy, which they’ll finish off by morning.

There’s scary movies, from “Jaws” to “Friday the 13th“ to—well—“Scary Movie.”

The murder mystery genre—in books, TV, and film—can scare even the least gullible. What’s even scarier is that there were about 1.4 million violent crimes last year; about 17,000 of them were murders, about 89 percent from firearms, according to the FBI.

Poverty, the deterioration of the environment, and Dick Cheney are all scary.

But the scariest of all is ignorance, hatred, and bigotry, wrapped within the cloak of fear.

This past week, along with a mini-mail list of about 60, I received an e-mail from a friend. She’s a nice lady, relatively bright, and active in community affairs. The e-mail has been around for several years, but is refreshed every year between Halloween and Christmas. As is custom, thousands who receive it forward it to thousands of others who are asked to boycott stamps that honor Muslim holidays. The first lines of the e-mail are bold. “How ironic is this??!!” it screams at us. “They don’t even believe in Christ and they’re getting their own Christmas stamp . . .” The graphics-laden e-mail displays a 37-cent postage stamp. The rest of the e-mail, all in bold type and colors, tells us that we are supposed to remember the “MUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103,” the “MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993,” and the “MUSLIM” bombings of the military barracks in Saudi Arabia and American embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole, and 9/11.

We are told not only to “remember to adamantly and vocally boycott this stamp,” but that buying this stamp “would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.” We are urged to forward the e-mail to “every patriotic American you know.”

The stamp, according to the U.S. Postal Service, was issued to commemorate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, considered by Muslims as the two most important festivals in their calendar year. The calligraphy in the center of the stamp translates literally as “blessed festival,” or more loosely as, “May your religious holiday be blessed.” The stamp was first issued on Sept. 1, 2001, and then reissued in 2002, 2006, and in September this year to reflect postage increases.

Although the Post Office each year issues a stamp to honor Christmas, it also issues a non-denominational holiday stamp. It also issues stamps to honor Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

Those who write and forward the e-mails of intolerance don’t understand, and probably never will, that while some Muslim extremists were at the heart of some terrorist plots, they don’t represent Islam or any other religion. If we believe that the few Muslim terrorists represent the entire religion, we must then go to the absurdity of believing that we should boycott all Christmas stamps because some Christian extremists destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City and murdered 178 and wounded more than 800. We would have to boycott the Christmas stamp because God-fearing Christians lynched as many as 10,000 Americans—most of them Black but many of whom were Jews, Italians, and Irish—in the century after the Civil War. We would condemn Christianity because of the Inquisitions of the 15th and 16th centuries. We would blame the Protestants and the Catholics for a religious civil war in Northern Ireland that led to the deaths of more than 3,700 in a four decade period. We would never speak favorably of any German or millions of other Europeans because the Nazis and their collaborators, good Christians all, launched the holocaust that led to the murders of 12 million and a war that claimed more than 50 million lives, most of them civilian.

On Halloween, we see pre-teen girls cutely dressed as witches, happily going door to door for candy, and we readily help them get the sugar-kick they expect every Oct. 31. We don’t condemn these pretend-witches, unlike Christians of the 17th century America who burned and drowned women because they were “witches.”

Every religion has its militant extremists who violate laws and commandments against murder, but every religion has people of peace who believe in love and tolerance. Indeed, by condemning all Muslims, we also condemn ourselves to ignorance, hatred, bigotry, and fear.

[Dr. Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through most major on-line stores. You may contact Brasch through]

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Guest Op-ed submissions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website. Writers are solely responsible for content.

Posted by Walter Brasch at November 21, 2007 09:09 AM | Guest Writings | Technorati links |

Then there's the scary Natasha who writes an article called "Moral Degenerates in Vegas" and doesn't give people who are maligned in it the opportunity to comment. I wonder if you will have enough integrity to post this comment for your readers. Wouldn't be suprised if this never sees the light of day. Just want you to know my response to your little whackjob:

1. I haven't been called a moral degenerate since the '60s, but thank you.

2. How dare you characterize my expression as confusion. If anything, I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of your mouth after I explained how your position on health care would eventually bankrupt the entire country...but that's fine...some people have no ability to open their minds to another perspective.

3. Keep taxing the upper middle and upper classes to pay the health care of expenses of people who would rather use their money to live in nice houses and send their kids to private school and pretty soon you won't have those classes to tax. They'll leave or find better tax shelters.

4. Your support of a socialist healthcare system is naive and short sighted. Plenty of hospitals provide free or low cost medical care for people who truly cannot afford to pay. St. Judes is a perfect example. Also, people who need care but truly cannot pay get help from their churches, neighborhood, friends, and family - too many examples of fundraisers and the like to detail here. My point is that there are other support systems for these people. People like you want to turn the government into everyone's mommy. If you like that system so much, why don't you live in Canada, or better yet, Venezuela?

5. The people who decided to become poster children for Martin O'Malley's socialist republic of Maryland had their heads handed to them on a silver platter precisely because they had sufficient financial resources to purchase health insurance but chose to use those resources to pay the mortgage on a nice house, nice cars, etc. The money that came from the grandparents for private school - and part of it did come from there regardless of what your link says - is money that should also have been used to purchase insurance. That part of Maryland has wonderful public schools and there is no reason to send a child to private school if you live there. We all make financial choices, Natasha. When your choices turn out to be bad ones, don't tell me to pony up more tax dollars for your rainy day. I'm already taxed out the wazoo for social programs supporting the poorest members of my state and federal government. That's enough mandated charity in a supposedly democratic capitalist society. On top of that, I regularly tithe for my own community.

6. I am an amazing bankruptcy lawyer who has helped scads of people over my 25 year career. No need to feel sorry for any of my clients.

7. You really need to learn some civility. I don't mind that you disagree with me, but the way you do it is low, and quite frankly, disgusting.

Posted by: Cheryl Taragin at November 29, 2007 11:10 PM