As is so often the case with commentary about politics or society or people’s behavior, the narrative is already defined and when a current event takes place the parameters of the debate, being predetermined, light up and all too often essential points are lost or not even seen. Such is the case with the Juan Williams news story.
As you may know, Juan Williams, the (now ex) NPR employee, was recently on Fox News and talked about his fear or trepidation when he sees Muslims in an airport. He got fired for this. The firing took over the story. But the question behind it was whether he was being racist or was he simply expressing his personal level of paranoia.
Over the next couple of days there were many debates and discussions on tv about this; some taking the he’s just paranoid side and others taking the he is lumping all Muslims together side.
BUT… here is what he said and what nobody seemed to notice.
“When I get on a plane, I gotta tell ya, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”
And what nobody seemed to notice:
He seems to be saying that what scares him is not necessarily that they are Muslims but that they identify themselves as Muslims; that somehow they are flaunting it. And that in doing so they might not have the same priorities or values as, you know, normal American citizens.
It’s like he thinks that when they got up in the morning and were getting ready to get dressed they maybe thought, “should I wear Western clothes today like normal regular people, or should I wear Muslim garb? Yeah, I think I’ll wear Muslim garb. I think I’ll really get in their face today.”
I think this is the wrong thinking that exposes Juan Williams’ distortion. I use that word because I don’t even want to go to standard labels like the “r” word. I don’t think he has given us enough evidence for that. But there certainly seems to be some fog in his psyche and he clearly has a problem with the diversity of our culture and of mankind.
And finally, even if they were consciously identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, so what. Maybe they love their culture and their religion and those things are important to them. Or maybe they just wear what they do and act the way they do just because that’s how they grew up. Who knows?
So I have no final judgement about whether Juan Williams is a “r”ist. I just think that he needs to mix with the other kids and learn to play better with others.
P.S. – After I wrote the above I scouted around on the web and did find out that I was not alone noticing the garb flaunting aspect of the story. Gina Burgess at The Everyday Christian website had this to say:
“Juan Williams was asked for his opinion and he gave an honest answer, ‘Seeing people dressed in Muslim garb and blatantly pushing Muslim agenda scares me.’ Hey, it scares me silly, too.”
Whether Juan Williams actually said the above quote or not I don’t know. That wasn’t what he said in the segment I saw where my quote of his comes from. But the everyday Christian certainly picked up on the agenda thing, whether they imagined him saying that or not.
I suspect she would also be terrified by seeing someone choosing to have long hair and blatantly pushing their hippie agenda. Or how about those women choosing to wear dresses and blatantly pushing their feminine agenda. Scares the bejesus out of me.
I am also disturbed by the fact that the writer has the audacity to consider themselves an everyday Christian. Were I a Christian I would take offense at that.