Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Elizabeth Moon and Islam

I am going to post here, since my blog is not read by many people, rather than in a more public place. I don't want to add to the heat and noise. But I do want to think out loud.

(In case you don't know, Moon put a post on her blog saying that Muslims don't make good American citizens, because they refuse to conform to the American mainstream culture. She and Nisi Shawl are guests of honor at Wiscon the next year. Since Wiscon takes a strong position against prejudice, Moon's post is making the Con Committee and a lot of regular Wiscon attendees unhappy.)

I have read the Moon essay twice. The first time it gave me an upset stomach and headache that lasted two days. It is poisonous. Given the current mood in the country, it is also dangerous.

What country did this woman grow up in?

The US is full of groups that did not conform to the community at large and who demanded that society accommodate them. The Irish and Germans did not give up their Catholic religion, though English stock Protestants hated it; and they refused to send their kids to the secular public schools. In addition, the Germans opened beer halls and drank publicly and loudly, though it made their Protestant neighbors crazy.

Jews, Hindus and Buddhists have kept their religions and established temples, though this has often freaked out majority Americans.

The Amish dress distinctively, pull their kids out of school after eighth grade and refuse to fight in America's wars.

The Mormons believe in science fiction and live in a theocracy, if the stories I hear about Utah are true. They are also rumored to wear odd underwear.

Native Americans have struggled -- and continued to struggle -- to maintain their native cultures and religions, in spite of the best efforts of white Christian Americans to turn them into white Christians. Black Americans demanded first freedom and then equal rights, though many white Americans were -- and are -- extremely uncomfortable with the idea of free and equal black citizens. Women fought for equal rights and their own independent lives. Gays and lesbians came out of the closet and demanded an end to prejudice against them. Disabled Americans demanded access to education, jobs and public spaces.

The history of the US has been a history of minorities challenging the dominant culture, and the dominant culture changing.

On some issues, the dominate culture remains firm. We do not allow polygamy or genital mutilation, and we are not likely to change our minds about this.

However, in my America, there is a constant negotiation over what American culture is, and a constant expansion of acceptable ways to be American. In this America, Muslims ought to fit in just as well as Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, drunk German Catholics, socialist Finns, out lesbians, and people in wheelchairs who are unwilling to stay at home.

I have wondered for years what American culture is. I guess the answer is, it's subject to change.


Blogger Nisi said...

Eleanor, this is cool thinking-out-loud, and I agree with a lot of what you say, but I object to your stating that I am "negotiating" with Elizabeth Moon. I'm not.

I've listened to her and spoken with her, and I'm going to read some of her fiction. She has listened to me and spoken with me, and is reading some of my fiction and nonfiction. At this point we plan to talk again in about a month.

Negotiation is what you do when you're trying to get something from another person or entity in exchange for what you possess. Nothing like that going on with me. I hope that makes sense to you.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

I changed the post in response to Nisi's comment, and I apologize. My only excuse is, I read the bit about negotiation on the Internet. Every fool knows that not everything on the Internet is true.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Eleanor, this post speaks very clearly to my personal unease (as a kinda disabled Jew, to name a couple of my minority identities) with Lt. Moon's "assimilation" crap. Many thanks.

8:06 PM  
Blogger lydamorehouse said...

I love when you think out loud, Eleanor. You make a lot of sense.

12:59 PM  

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