Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 342- Oklahoma makes me hopeless

Dear Mr. President,

One of my final papers is on State Question 755. I would not normally write to you about issues of state government unless it was my own state, but the broader implications of this issue and it's popular support are really getting me down today. As I'm sure you know, State Question 755 would amend Oklahoma's state constitution to prevent courts from considering Shariah or International law when deciding cases. While I have confidence that wiser heads in Federal courts will prevail, it isn't this law, or the effects it would have that bothers me the most.

State Question 755 passed with almost 71% of the vote. Not just a majority but an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters were convinced that the threat of Shariah law is dire enough to warrant a constitutional amendment. I believe that many issues have perfectly reasonable people on both sides, that intelligent, rational thinkers exist as both conservatives and liberals. I don't believe that SQ 755 is one of those issues. I will say now (and I don't particularly care if it is disrespectful) that any one who voted for this is either stupid, uneducated, racist or easily manipulated. It really depresses me to know that 70% of Oklahoma's voters fall into that category. It makes me think that maybe public education is even worse off than I'd realized.

Researching this issue has led to reading a number of comments from supporters wearing the modern-day white sheets of internet anonymity. CAIR is a trojan horse, they say, Muslims are evil, they say, Islamic law demands that you beat your wife, force her into a burqa and mutilate your daughter, they say. I wish I was exaggerating but these are all comments I see repeated again and again. I think this must have been what it felt like to be a white American during the era of Jim Crow. I see this pointless, hateful, twisted logic written in to law and supported by the majority and hidden behind fear-mongering and I can't do anything about it. No one wants to listen to reason, no one wants to even hear information that might contradict their beliefs. It's like banging my head against a wall.

I guess I should take comfort in the fact that Jim Crow laws were overturned, the civil rights movement did change a lot of minds and that things did, slowly, get better. Muslims in this country may be the convenient scapegoat of our irrational fear at the moment, but in a few decades or centuries it will get better. What really bothers me is that, even if things have progressively improved for minority groups in America, it seems as though the ignorance and fear that caused the oppression and wrote it into our laws (and even our founding documents) hasn't gone anywhere. We stumble from enemy to enemy without questioning the real problem- our ignorance and our fear.

I don't have anything constructive to offer. The courts will strike down SQ 755 and it will materialize in another form on another ballot in 2012. I want to be cheered by the inevitable triumph of judicial wisdom over popular ignorance, but I'm having a hard time seeing the good in a system that pits one judge against 70% of a state's voters and hopes that the right thing will be done. How do you maintain your own faith in the voters, especially after this year's midterm elections? How do you explain an initiative like 755 passing with such a wide margin of victory?

Respectfully yours,


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