In Defense of Coexistence
Posted on April 22, 2013
I listen to a lot of talk radio. I like NPR news shows best, but I also enjoy a good morning show. As a guilty pleasure, when I’m feeling thirsty for that sweet feeling of righteous indignation, I listen to conservative talk radio. I only have one rule: No Rush Limbaugh when Ruthie is in the car. I don’t want her to have some weird, misplaced nostalgia for his voice when she’s older. I also don’t want to swear around her, and sometimes when I listen to Rush, it just slips out.
On Friday, radio personality Mark Steyn was filling in for dear old racist, misogynistic, homophobic Rush.
I don’t know anything about Mark Steyn. It took me a full three minutes of Google-fu to figure out who the heck I’d heard on the radio and confirm that yes, this is the guy. Steyn was talking about the high school where the Tsarnaev brothers attended and how its student body represented 82 different countries. He went on and on about how they grew up in the liberal idea of diversity, and look how that turned out.
No, seriously. He was implying that the Boston Marathon bombings were caused by the fact that they went to an ethnically diverse high school. Funny, I was thinking it was because they liked oatmeal. Or that their bedrooms were carpeted. Or that they preferred Pepsi to Coke.
I hate to be channel Seth & Amy here, but REALLY, Mark Steyn? I mean. Really. We don’t know much about these men yet, but of what we do know, the fact that they went to a diverse high school is really what you’re going to pinpoint?
If that wasn’t the point he was trying to make, it was the one that came across.
One thing he was undeniably arguing, though: that these bombings were proof that diversity doesn’t work.
He underscored this by ridiculing people who have Coexist bumper stickers on their cars. As it turns out, the car that the Tsarnaev brothers stole had a Coexist sticker on the back. This is greatly ironic to Steyn. He even wrote this article about it in The National Review.
I wonder, when the “Co-exist” car is returned to its owner, whether he or she will keep the bumper sticker in place. One would not expect him to conclude, as the gays of Amsterdam and the Jews of Toulouse and the Christians of Egypt have bleakly done, that if it weren’t for that Islamic crescent you wouldn’t need a bumper sticker at all. But he may perhaps have learned that life is all a bit more complicated than the smiley-face banalities of the multicultists.
I don’t know if you realized what he just said. He just said that without Islam, everyone would coexist just fine, and we wouldn’t need the sticker because coexistence would be simply a part of life. He says that’s a bleak perspective, but he doesn’t dismiss it as untrue. Steyn’s perfect world is one without Islam. He is wishing one religion out of existence, and somehow they are the bad guys?
My readers are smart. You know that not all Muslims are terrorists. You even know that that phrase is ridiculous, and a better one would be this: A tiny, tiny minority of Muslims are terrorists. The idea that someone would want to eradicate an entire religion because of the actions of a tiny fraction of its extremist “followers” is horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.
Steyn moved on in his radio show to ridicule people with Coexist stickers on their cars as ridiculous “multicultists” who stupidly believe that our world is more ideal than it is.
Steyn is completely misinterpreting the intention of the Coexist sticker. Believing in diversity is not to be ignorant of “the real world.” It’s not idealizing our current world or pretending that religious conflict doesn’t exist. The idea of coexisting is not, “Hey, you should tolerate me and accept me and never hurt me.”
To the contrary: believing in coexistence and diversity means that a person says, “I choose not to hurt you, even if you are different from me.”
We can’t control whether or not someone else wants to hurt us. Often, we can’t control whether or not they do. But we can control the way we interact with the world. We can choose how we behave. How we treat people.
I can’t force anyone to coexist with me. I will never be able to force someone who hates me to stop hating me. But I can refuse to hate them. Or hate people who look like them, or have the same religious beliefs as them, or who come from the same region of the world, or who speak the same language.
I choose not to hurt people, even if they are different from me.
That’s not such a terrible way to live, is it?