Historians have a term we call the scapegoating concept of history. This is the idea that people tend to look for others to blame — scapegoats — for their condition. They then attack that group even if it had little or nothing to do with their situation.
Scapegoats are usually weaker or marginalized members of society easily made to look suspicious. In a world of fearful shadows clutching desperately at guns and flags, scapegoats ease our anxiety especially when ethnic minorities or immigrants come into view. Bigotry, however, while burning intensely, has a short memory.
Islam is currently on the list of things we are supposed to be afraid of. The threat is such that even the president himself is apparently some kind of secret Muslim in league with unsavory characters.
We seem to have forgotten that the deadliest example of domestic terrorism in America before Sept. 11, 2001, came at the hands of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Despite McVeigh’s blond hair and blue eyes and claiming to love Jesus, no calls to ban Christianity or close churches sounded following his detestable, cowardly act.
In years to come, we will look back on the current anti-Muslim hysteria and wonder how we could ever have felt this way, just as we look back on the 19th century anti-Catholic movement as a foolish part of our history. We will accept that Muslim Americans are just as patriotic and loyal as any other. Hopefully, we will get to that point quicker this time and with less memory loss.
Brian Regal is a fellow of the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy.
* * *
I am not aware that 19th Catholics in America ever behaved even remotely like the current Muslims immigrants of Europe are now behaving! Have you read the news from Paris, Mr Regal?
How stupid can you get?