By Stanley Campbell
A mob storms the jail, drags someone out to a tree and strings him up. Is that what you want?
Mobs rule when emotions are high, and this country was ready to bomb anyone after Sept. 11, 2001. Still, many people opposed our country’s invasion of Iraq. “Don’t use our grief for your war,” the banners said, and we still say “go after Osama” instead of occupying Afghanistan.
Right now, the mob is being led to oppose building a mosque next to where the Twin Towers stood in New York. Never mind that Muslims lost friends like everyone else when those towers came down. And they forget that our country’s very first amendment is defending freedom of religion, and that even George W. Bush said we are fighting terrorists, not the Islamic faith.
But the mob still rules.
In the movies, the mob can sometimes be talked out of taking the law into their own hands. The hero (and sometimes heroine) can face down a mob, talk to them individually, make them see the error of their ways.
Not so often in real life. Mobs ruled southern towns less than 70 years ago, stringing up black people and opposing federal attempts at anti-lynching laws. States’ rights, they said. Senators, governors and even presidents shrugged their shoulders and let the mob rule.
Now, the mob is being led to attack Muslims. Our president, the proverbial sheriff, is trying to defend the Constitution, but the grieving, the embittered, the unscrupulous and the racist are waving the bloody shirt and crying for revenge, no matter the innocent.
When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, a man who kinda looked like John Wilkes Booth was taken out to a tree to be hanged. Someone finally got the mob to stop and look at what they were doing. “This is not the assassin.” “Well, he should be hanged anyway,” said one of the disgruntled.
Same thing goes for the beleaguered immigrant. There’s an economic downturn, rampant crime and who’s to blame? The dark-skinned stranger among us, the person who doesn’t speak English so well, and we never liked them anyway, even though we never knew them, anyway.
I am proud of Rockford. They have celebrated the variety of religious freedoms, and welcomed the stranger. And we welcome the new mosque being built on the southeast side of town, which is half a mile from the Buddhist Temple and surrounded by United Methodist and Lutheran churches. May we continue to celebrate America’s freedoms, and share those freedoms with the world.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue