Yesterday evening I read a New York Times profile about Pamela Geller, a blogger and pundit who speaks and writes strongly against what she calls the “increasing Islamization in America.” She has also said that President Obama is aiding and abetting the demise of America.
It’s an interesting article, though I found most it (and Geller’s blog) rather discouraging. What most caught my attention wasn’t the scope of Geller’s work, but two short paragraphs about the memory of America that informs the type of future she is working towards.
Pamela Geller said her early years were imbued with a sense of American power and rectitude, so pervasive that it need not be articulated. Many of her current concerns — political correctness, media cowardice, changing national identity, eroding individual rights — can be connected to those times.
“Growing up as the sort of tail end of the baby boomers, there was this feeling of invincibility in America,” she said. “We were free. The good guys won. The good cop is on the beat. I certainly don’t get a sense of that anymore.” (Jessica Geller put it this way: “What my sister really wants is for everything to get back to normal in America.”)
Ms Geller’s view of American history- good guys, normal, invincible, free– and her conviction that this history must be reclaimed reminded me of a previous post on this blog. Back in April I reflected on a Time Magazine article about “The White Anxiety Crisis.” The article’s premise is that each time America’s ethnic landscape noticeably changes, those within the majority culture respond with a “white backlash.” Majority culture folks often hold specific memories about America’s history. According to the Time author, when these patriotic memories bump against significant demographic shifts, “we are likely to see the rise of a more defensive, aggrieved sense of white victimhood that strains the social contract and undermines collectively shared notions of the common good.”
In the midst of this election cycle it seems that white victimhood is being directed mostly towards Muslims, though undocumented immigrants have been convenient targets as well. Ms Geller is representative of those who see “radical Islam” as the major threat to the nation’s security, though she certainly isn’t alone in her views. Political campaigns in Nevada and West Virginia have also made Islamization an issue, though the distinctions between ethnicity and religion are not always clear.
I’m interested in these types of stories for three reasons. First, as a citizen I’m interested in how our nations sees itself. Second, as a white person I care about self-appointed watchdogs like Ms Geller who share my skin color but not my understanding of America. Finally, it seems that those who share my Christian faith will find it impossible to ignore incendiary comments by those in positions of power and privilege. Our faith allows no room for groups of people to be scapegoated because of ethnicity, race or religion.
I wonder why I hear so few Christian voices- especially from my evangelical tradition- engaging these issues. Is this simply not a priority? Or does much of the majority culture church empathize with the concerns of folks like Ms Geller? As always, I welcome your charitable comments.