Tonight’s drive home from work was not particularly special. I stopped by the day care to pick up my daughter, ran by Target to get one or two necessities, talked to a friend I had not seen in a while, and was back on the road toward home in no time. As I drove, I listened to MPR’s All Things Considered report on terror suspects at the Mall of America. But that’s just the thing, they were perceived suspects as a result of something that they did at the mall. One old man forgot his cell phone at the food court and was considered suspicious. Another man displayed strange walking behavior, and was also considered suspect (turns out the later was just looking for a toy for his son). Disturbing reports? In my opinion yes! But that opinion is not the same for authorities at the Mall who were just trying to protect the public from possible acts of terror. I believe that it is safe to say that it was fear that motivated them to pursue these suspects, fear of the other.
This fear of the other, or people not like us, has increased since 9/11. Through different policies, regulations, armed forces, and so many other things, we have tried to keep people from being able to perpetrate the same events that robbed this world of thousands of lives. Our goal, I believe, has been legitimate, I mean, who would want the events of 9/11 to ever be repeated? However, in doing so, we have often singled out people, innocent people, profiling them simply because they fit the description of the other. And more specifically, the religious other.
How do we get beyond this fear? Do we even want to? Can we name it? Juan Williams named his fear and got in trouble. But does that get us anywhere, or at least anywhere desirable? What would happen if we replaced our fear of the other, whether they be Muslim, Christian, Democrat, Republican, Atheist, a Tea Party Advocate, male, female, poor or rich, with genuine heartfelt love. Perfect love drives out all fear. How can we begin to love the other perfectly? Even more than this, how do we begin to love in such a way that we no longer divide ourselves against the other, and instead reach out across cultural barriers to embrace a new way of life?