Monday, September 06, 2010

American Tolerance Tradition Triumphs Over Know Nothings

Nicholas Kristoff has a fine column arguing that that fear of the Ground Zero mosque, and other expressions of Islamic life in the United States, is not driven by sheer bigotry. Rather, it is driven by the desire of well-meaning people to protect the nation from what they imagine are unassimilable aliens and the possible physical and moral danger they might bring. Like the anti-Catholic Know Nothing movement of the nineteenth century, this impulse is not new in American history. But Kristoff offers a hopeful answer:

But we have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history as well, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse.


Mac said...

The comparison is not a four corners argument. The Roman catholic Irish had not announced any desire to destroy America, followed by massive attacks aimed at carrying out their mission. Thus, the Know -Nothings were truly and singularly religiously biased.

No matter what anyone says today, there are huge groups of Muslims world-wide who have so intertwined their religion and their politics that we are justifiably suspicious of practitioners of that faith who assert their "constitutional rights" while disavowing any duty to the American people and their constitution.

Katie said...


Anti-Catholicism in the U.S. was brewing in our great land from the first day that Jamestown was established. Our anti-Catholic history is inextricably linked with England's own feelings of anti-Catholicism. While U.S. history doesn't offer up any major examples of Catholics trying to bring down the government, English history offers a couple really memorable ones.

In 1570, Pope Pious V actively tried to depose Queen Elizabeth. I'm pretty sure that would count as an intertwining of religion and politics.

And let's not forget Guy Fawkes, a Catholic conspirator who attempted to blow up the House of Lords. In today's world, he would certainly be labeled a terrorist. In fact, his history reads much like the locally-grown terrorists we read about in the news today: Guy Fawkes was born in England, he converted to Catholicism, went abroad to fight in a foreign war on behalf of the Catholics, tried to seek support for a rebellion against England while living in Catholic Spain, and returned to England to try and blow up Parliament.

I would say that we're just watching history repeat itself. We can do better than fear-mongering this time around.

Anonymous said...

In 2008, 105 hate crime incidents against Muslims were reported nationwide. There were 10 times as many incidents that were recorded as anti-Jewish during the same year, the most recent for which figures are available.( Noel Shepard)

A little context.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that the folks arguing against the community center a few blocks from Ground Zero are often the same folks arguing *for* flying the Confederate flag over southern state capitals?

Since we're talking about people "disavowing any duty to the American people and their constitution", secessionists and those who would glorify them certainly fall into that category.

And lest anyone forget, the secessionists killed far more Americans.

Just a little more context.

plink said...

4:38 anon, you added no context just an angry rant. Hope you feel better.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you concern. I'm not angry at all. Just illustrating the hypocrisy of some people.

Attempting to dismiss that as "angry" (there's no anger there at all) is weak tea, but I hope you feel better too.

plink said...

I love weak tea.