One nation under ignorance

Tom Nardi

One of the most interesting races of this year’s midterm elections was probably one of the least competitive. And no, I’m not talking about Hillary or Elliot Spitzer, so you New Yorkers can calm down.

And as much as I loved watching Rick Santorum’s children cry on national television, I’m not talking about the blowout in Pennsylvania either.

Keith Ellison won Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District by 34r points. In doing so, he became the first African American elected to the Minnesota Congressional delegation. But more importantly, at least to my column this week, he became the first Muslim elected to Congress.

On the face of things Representative Ellison’s election looks like a great leap forward for America, especially after the 9-11 attacks. Civil rights victories have many times been benchmarked in political achievements: Jack Kennedy the Irish Catholic President; Thurmond Marshall the black Supreme Court Justice; Sandra Day the female Justice; Geraldine Ferraro the female VP candidate; etc.

Unfortunately, rather than being a time to celebrate our advancement as a culture, Keith Ellison has become a lightning rod for our nation’s collective ignorance.It came to the national forum with an appearance on the Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News on Nov. 14.

Beck asked Ellison if they could step away from political correctness for a few minutes. That was fair enough; sometimes people, especially pundits and politicians, let political correctness get in the way of the truth. But then Beck indicated that something was amiss: “No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I’ve been to mosques.”

Oh God, we know what that disclaimer means.

The first substantive question-if you can call it that-out of Beck’s mouth was one of the most offensive things I have heard since Macacca: “You are a Democrat. You are saying, ‘Let’s cut and run.’… What I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ “

One might think, “Okay, that’s just Glenn Beck being insane.” But, in addition to Beck, there was a column by Dennis Prager (courtesy of the American Family Association).

The column was prompted by Ellison’s decision to have his picture taken with the Koran, rather than the Bible in a mock-swearing-in photo op. So you might expect what Prager was thinking: “[Ellison] should not be allowed to do so … because the act undermines American civilization.”

And we wonder why they hate us.

Prager’s argument might stand a chance, if it weren’t based on total fabrications and outright lies (“lies” being the printable form of “horse-excrement”).

So let’s examine a few choice quotes.

“As a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.”

Wrong. The most important American documents are the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

And one was written by a man so devoted to the Bible, he threw it out and wrote his own biography of Jesus, without all the supernatural things.

“But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either.”

Wrong. The actual oath involves no book. According to the House Clerk, “neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, ha[s] ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony.” In fact, the Constitution specifically says, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Yet, Prager believes in his heart that Ellison having a photo-op with the Koran “will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.”

This occasion should be joyous for the nation. But men like Beck and Prager assume that they are fit to say the first things that come to mind-no matter how stupid they are, no matter how many facts they ignore, no matter how many conflicts they invent. I can barely put into words the utter revulsion I feel writing this column. How can some of my fellow Americans think like this?

The things that damage America’s unity are comments like Prager’s and Beck’s. Some feel compelled to make us fear other law-abiding Americans in order to further their socio-political agenda or whatever.

With that, I’d like to say to everyone, Happy Holidays and best wishes on your finals. I hope you are digging your trenches for the War on Christmas, which we should be hearing about shortly. (I hear Target is still using “Happy Holidays.’)

See you next semester, Villanova.