Islamophobia on Main Street

“Consider this a checkpoint!” – Oh, it’s a checkpoint all right: the point where we get handed the check.

Original story: online.wsj.com | Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

How much does this murder attempt differ from the actions of a flight attendant who easily could have been shooting off a gun rather than his mouth? Oh wait a second, you mean little Mikey Enright the Cabbie Stabber doesn’t deserve a reality show? He doesn’t deserve a round of talk show appearances to set some asinine record straight? No backstage photo ops with Barry Manilow, like JetBlue’s bratty Steven Slater received? Well why not? Isn’t what he did just another public tantrum? I thought we loved our precious public tantrums!

Is it really that incredible to infer that our collective capacity for reality has so mutated that we soon may not know who to reward and who to condemn? That someday we may not even be able to tell the difference between red carpet and blood on the sidewalk? Call me crazy, but I think not.

As a nation, we’ve been so accrediting of bad behavior lately that somewhere in this 21 year-old filmmaker’s mind, overtly or subconsciously, something probably told him that slashing a Muslim cab driver in the mouth would be applauded. I’m not saying his motivation was praise – he was allegedly drunk (and don’t even get me started on the lameness of that excuse) – but let’s take a look at how feasible it is that Michael Enright would take for granted that an aggressive act toward a Muslim man would come to be appreciated, that he’d be praised by the anti-Muslim mob or at least by foes of the “Ground Zero mosque” proposal.

According to Smearcasting: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation, brought to you by the folks at Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, “the term ‘Islamophobia’ refers to hostility toward Islam and Muslims that tends to dehumanize an entire faith, portraying it as fundamentally alien and attributing to it an inherent, essential set of negative traits such as irrationality, intolerance and violence.”

Uh, unless you’re watching news channels I don’t get, I’m pretty sure that this is a spot-on portrayal of the way an appalling number of vocal Americans now think and act. Combine this climate with the fact that, more and more, we confuse needs with demands. As a result, too many of us respond impetuously to daily work or social challenges. Who among us deals with frustration well anymore? We’re insanely passive–aggressive and we seem desperate to get in the last word. And almost as if we’ve surrendered power of attorney over our aptitude for foresight to anything or anyone who will sanction our point of view, we don’t listen and we ignore the bigger picture. Worst of all, we live in world where our insecurities are off the chart.

Finally, all around Enright, people are gaining fame through participation in reality shows and public stunts, often shaming themselves in the process. Fame is the new Bling: the longer you can sustain it, the more time you have to stick around and repeat something. And since repetition is quickly supplanting fact in terms of our collective “truth,” whatever you say will sooner or later be regarded as the new real.

So while I’m not judging the masses based on one Michael Enright, and I can only speculate about the contents of the kid’s brain, I am asking if there’s a connection between the two. Because if we as an economically depressed society are, by our behaviors and endorsements, incubating this kind of individual, we have no more excuse than they did in 1930s Germany.

No, Michael Enright this isn’t a checkpoint; it’s a gut-check.

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