I’m not exactly sure why, but the plot uncovered recently to bomb a Muslim apartment complex and mosque in Kansas has deeply disturbed me. It’s not just about the plan to kill hundreds of people. I think what disturbs me most is the level of hatred. One of the suspects is alleged to have said that they were going to leave no one behind, even if it meant killing infant children. The actual quote about killing Muslim babies was: “I’m serious. I guarantee you if I go on a mission those little f---- are going bye bye.”
Maybe this bothers me so much because just a few weeks ago we spent a wonderful time in Oregon visiting and cooing over our three-month old granddaughter, Ava. I remember holding Ava in my arms and realizing how vulnerable she is and how much I love her and would do anything to protect her. I’m sure my feelings for Ava mirrored those of other parents and grandparents as they hold their precious children in their arms. I’m sure that’s true for Muslim parents, as well. Babies are precious. All lives are precious. The thought of someone hating a defenseless child so much that they would be willing to put a bullet in her head is beyond abhorrent to me.
How does a person get to this level of hate? We aren’t born with hate in our hearts. Hate is fermented; it’s a learned behavior. We also know that hate and fear are contagious. Hate and fear feeds more hate and fear. The level of hate these men displayed certainly grew over a long period of time. I wonder if they would have turned out differently if someone had called them out on their language and their actions as they were just forming their biased beliefs. Would they be less hate filled now if people of strong values and good hearts had consistently spoken up and said to them that we don’t act that way here. We don’t talk that way about any of God’s children. We are all God’s beloved – even you are God’s beloved.
We may be too late for these fellows, but perhaps not for someone around us who is just now forming an impression of how we treat those who are different from us. Maybe, if we show them our love and treat them with respect, and voice our expectations for tolerance, we won’t have to worry about Americans planning to kill Muslim babies in America in the future.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.