I commuted between LA and Boston for years. I was supposed to be back on the road Friday, another book tour. I got on planes the way my mother took trolleys.
The phone rang. That was the end of BEFORE.
Everything else is AFTER.
We are a different country, those of us who can remember. We saw it. We saw these men mow down innocent men, women and children. We saw hate. It changed us. We can't deny that.
It changed the way I view Muslim men. I work harder to be fair. I try to bend over backward. There is that tickle of fear in the back of my throat.
These are people who would destroy everything we believe in, kill us for our beliefs, murder our children — in the name of what? Certainly not any God.
Of course we must be fair. Ninety-nine percent of Muslims are not terrorists, even if 100% of terrorists were Muslims. Racism consists of judging individuals based on their membership to a group rather than on their individual characteristics.
The people in front of me in line while traveling were a Muslim family. Actually, I'd jumped to another line because I knew they'd take forever. And they did.
And if they hadn't and there was a bomb in the diaper bag?
They were no more surprised than I was.
We used to live in a world where we at least tried to convince ourselves we weren't racist, that we believed in religious freedom. Live and let live, except for those who don't want to let live.
And therein lies the problem with our wonderful liberal tradition.
Jihad translates to war against nonbelievers.
Leading scholars of Islam counsel that nonbelievers should be killed.
And when we hear that, we surround that hater with as much police protection as we can muster so no one will kill him for preaching that our children deserve to die?
That's how it works in a free country.
Pass the mic to Little Hitler?
Make sure to protect all those Little Osamas?
I know. It's not about them; it's about us. It's a measure of what kind of people we are that we put the lives of law enforcement on the line protecting the right of those who hate us to meet and congregate and express their views.
The answer to hate speech is love speech, or something like that. The answer to lies is truth. The answer to bad speech is more speech.
These days, we have more speech circulating than ever in history. Is it just me, or do we also have more hate circulating?
What if the old answer doesn't work anymore?
One step: Hold people responsible for what they say and the harm it encourages.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Foundry at Pixabay