Today, I had the privilege of playing my new song “Personally” (and a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine”) at the Refuse Fascism rally and march in Cal Anderson Park. We were joined by a handful of pro-Trump counter protesters. I talked with some of them after my set. Below is a letter I’ve written to them.
Dear Anthony and Aaron,
I’m not going to pretend to understand you. We only just met, and you’re each fully human with your own complex personalities and motivations. During our talk, this is what I learned about you:
• You’re the grandsons of an undocumented immigrant.
• You believe that all Muslims are part of some kind of 1.8 billion-person conspiracy and that they’re all lying to everyone else about their true intentions.
• You consider yourselves to be Christians and proud Americans.
• You support Trump.
• Anthony organized ACT for America‘s Seattle anti-“Sharia” protest last month.
• Aaron plays the bass.
• Aaron was yelling, “USA!” and disrupting our rally. (see photo below)
I’m listing these facts (and sharing the photo above) because I’m trying to square your humanity with the Islamophobic ideology you’re steeped in, and I just can’t make sense of it. When it comes to Muslims, what exactly are you so afraid of?
Whether you categorize people by skin color, religion, or any other kind of identity, you can find violent extremist assholes in every group. White Christian America has given the world a variety of such assholes: Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Dylan Roof, and Jeremy Christian are just a few examples. In fact, white right wing extremists are the top perpetrators of terrorist attacks on US soil. There’s not even a close second.
There are 1.8 billion Muslims of various sects and denominations currently living on Earth. If they were all terrorists plotting to destroy Western civilization, they’d have done it already.
Is it more likely that 1.8 billion people are engaged in a conspiracy to take over the world, or that they’re just 1.8 billion individuals; each with their own complex personalities and motivations – just like you?
As I said today, I’ve traveled the Muslim world, from Turkey to Indonesia. Some of my dearest friends are Muslim. The man who held me in his arms and ugly cried with me on 9/11 is Muslim. (You can’t fake that kind of grief.) These folks don’t all have a hidden agenda. They’re not all part of some giant sleeper cell. They’re just people.
And if you’re wrong about Muslims, what other beliefs that stem from your white nationalist viewpoint might you be wrong about?
I’m not sure if any of this will mean anything to you. I’ve engaged in conversations with folks who share your ideology in the past and run up against a maddeningly self-reinforcing set of beliefs that defies logic. Perhaps I’m simply talking to a wall here, but I hope not.
Because whatever your motivations, fears, or misconceptions, you are still human beings who are worthy of love and belonging. The world I’m fighting for with my whole heart has room for you, with your light skin, belief in Jesus as your personal savior, and masculine identities. It has the same amount of room for dark-skinned Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab (or not), and Buddhist Asian trans folks, and wrinkly old Indigenous grandparents.
If you’re used to getting your sense of worth and humanity from believing that you are superior to other people due to your religion, skin color, maleness, or American citizenship, then sharing that same amount of room with all those folks who are different from you might feel like oppression at first. But if you can sit with the discomfort and learn to connect with members of those groups as individuals rather than monoliths, you will experience the kind of freedom and love for yourselves and your fellow human beings that can move mountains.
I’m not saying this as someone who has it all figured out. I’ve got light skin in a white supremacist culture. I’ve internalized a bunch of this shit, too. I’m actively fighting that conditioning every day.
Please join me. It’s not too late.
I love you,
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