Arcade Fires and Muslim Relations

Below is a Facebook Post that I originally posted on February 23, 2012. Thanks for reading.

I love Arcade Fire so much. Also, know what I do not love? Let me tell you.

It is the anecdote, making the rounds, about the carful of Muslims getting run over and killed by an eighteen-wheeler. At the end, the narrator admiringly muses, "I sat in my car thinking to myself, "Man... that could have been me!" So today; bright and early, I went out and got a job as a truck driver."

The height of insensitivity and perpetuation of an 'us-versus-them' mentality that preys on people's paranoias and does nothing - NOTHING - to further any kind of meaningful understanding or dialogue. I laugh at a lot of things, and have a fairly keen appreciation for both low-brow and high-brow humor...but to pass along cheap-shot, lowest-common denominator 'jokes' like this one pander to a primeval, aggressive attitude that is wedded to troglodytic, xenophobic mentalities.

Normally, I wouldn't even waste space writing about this. But I am especially offended, as I have FB friends who have been posting this - friends who work in Higher Education, as well as friends I share a religious affiliation with. I do not want their embracing and perpetuation of this 'joke' being in any way reflective of thinking, caring Christians who desire to build bridges, not put up walls.

My passive-aggressive, yet pointed public response.

Thank you. Love you all. Even like some of you :)


    • Liesl Vistaunet Thank you for standing up for what's right. I wish there were more of you.
      February 23 at 9:16pm ·  ·  9

    • Liesl Vistaunet Also, I'm going to have to look up some of those words. :)
      February 23 at 9:16pm ·  ·  7

    • Dennis Crews Thanks for your perfect response to an inexcusably ugly anecdote. I second every word of it.
      February 23 at 9:22pm ·  ·  3

    • David Huckaby Huck doesn't love people who say they gonna play and don't show up

    • Jonny Long Well said, Joseph. Extremely distasteful, ignorant, and offensive indeed.
      February 23 at 9:51pm ·  ·  2

    • substitute 'people' for 'Muslim'.
      I'm so disgusted lately. What the hell has happened to us as a species?

      February 23 at 9:58pm ·  ·  1

    • Sydney Foster I agree. Not a gray area. It's propagating hate through humor which I find more repulsive than someone directly stating an opinion I completely disagree with. It reminds me of school yard bullying. A very ugly and hurtful thing that for the victim lasts far beyond the actual act. It takes time to build trust. It takes a moment I break it.
      February 23 at 10:01pm ·  ·  6

    • Jaron Sue Well spoken Mr. Long. Agreed.
      February 23 at 10:14pm ·  ·  1

    • Chad Bye I haven't heard this "joke" before and do find it tasteless, however one should consider the difference between people joking about something, versus people who actually perform these acts of terror. I haven't heard of a semi actually running over a group of Muslims, but sure have heard a lot about these extremist groups killing a lot of innocent people every day. Just for thinking ever so slightly different from them. R

    • Jonny Long There's certainly a difference between someone who talks atrociously and someone who actually acts atrociously. Both are wrong, none the less.

      And I think you hit the nail on the head when you cited "extremist groups". Huge difference between an extremist group and the Muslim population as a whole. On a smaller scale, it would be like saying that every male that's a member of the LDS faith is part of a polygamous sect or that if you're catholic you must be involved in some kind of child molestation scandal. Any group, religious or not, has those that claim to be part of that particular group but most definitely do not represent the group as a whole and typically are not claimed by the masses.

      I'm not supportive even remotely of extremist groups that kill innocent individuals in the name of God, Allah, or anyone else, there's no justification for it. I also don't support bigotry, child sex slavery, or Fundamentilst groups where incest, rape, and extreme abuse is a daily occurrence. Unfortunately those are all things that are rampant in the United States.

      Our world is pretty sick. It's unfortunate that a few often ruin it for everyone else.

      February 23 at 10:58pm ·  ·  10

    • Leanna Long I read this anecdote, as well. I do not love it either. It is not funny or humourous, it is not clever or patriotic. It IS highly offensive, highly ignorant, and highly un-christlike.

      It astounds me that people could think it amusing in any way. Is this the attitude we want to pass along to *our* kids? Young minds developing their thoughts and opinions about people and God and the world?? Wow. And people wonder why and how kids can be so intolerant and cruel to each other. It comes from attitudes like this. Using so-called "humour" as a guise for promoting itself. It makes me a little ill.

      Rather than encouraging "reflective thinking" (thank you, Joseph) and how to thoughtfully and respectfully disagree with opinions different than yours...it depicts violence and a complete disregard to human life as a joke. It certainly fails in its attempt at being funny. Very poor taste.

      I like Arcade Fire, too.

      February 23 at 11:10pm ·  ·  7

    • Joseph Long Spreading vitriolic verbal attacks on a targeted group of people and then calling it a joke is not the sign of a well-developed sense of humor, compassion, or intellect.

      My goal is to start conversations, not end them. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

      I am a strong proponent of free speech and support people's right to make obnoxious, ignorant, and even abhorrent statements, but they need to understand there is still an accountability factor - you don't get to make incendiary statements in a vacuum, and then pass them off as A) reactionary (e.g. the lesser of two evils - 'it's not near as bad as what THEY'RE doing') or B) merely humor (e.g. the attitude that 'no one's getting hurt, just lighten up, everyone!').

      Everybody has a different notion of what is funny; it is not my place to dictate what people laugh at...but, I have a special disdain for people who use their position of authority to propagate inflammatory rhetoric; it matters what the source is. And, as SydneyJonny, and Leanna touched on above, the power of language always has the potential to spread a message of either Love...or its antitheses: Hate or Indifference. It is one thing for a 15-year old to be sharing that anecdote with another 15-year old. It would be entirely another thing for me, as a 35-year old, to be sharing that same anecdote with a 15-year old. Either way, the anecdote is in poor taste, but it is exponentially worse coming from an adult in a position of moral responsibility; a position in which I would be doing nothing to help develop their critical thinking skills or sense of empathy. Words and stories help shape our attitudes; attitudes and beliefs are what drive our actions. The world is a funny place and we all oughta be able to laugh; it's just a bit more fun and inclusive when we can start the laughter by looking in the mirror :)

    • Ethan Tidwell Very, very well stated, Joseph! Really appreciated reading t his. We need more people to get mad like you and speak up and tell people how you feel about it.
      February 24 at 1:04am ·  ·  4

    • Bryce Dahlin Writing a joke about killing muslims...bad. Firing over 1000 missiles into Israel every year, atrocious. Imprisoning, trying and hanging people for the crime of being a christian in a muslim country (Iran), atrocious....raping, beating and murdering coptic christians in Egypt daily, atrocious. Sudanese christians being systematically elimated by muslims, atrocious. Family of five being knifed to death, mom, dad, and 3 small children by young muslim men, atrocious. 85% of muslims thinking Israel and every jew should be wiped off the face of the earth, abominable. Yet these things all happened in 2011 around the world by muslims and muslim countries. Sharia law is being spread like wildfire in the east and being tested in some parts of the west. If you don't understand Sharia law I suggest you read about it. Especially you women who value your freedoms. But surprisingly I see no blogs, or righteous indignation at any of these things. I hear vehement wrath at the possibility of someone burning a koran, but bibles that burn daily, no one seems to notice. I find it interesting and perplexing that people who love their freedoms so radically defend those out to undo freedom. I find it interesting those claiming to be christians, ignore the brutal persecution of their fellow christians yet are affronted at the snide humor of those who feel helpless as a certain faith, Islam, believing people fly two passenger airliners full of innocent men, women, children into the twin towers...I think its important to treat all people with respect. But I also think a little bit of reality and perspective is in order. There might be a little bit of resentment, and feeling of helplessness as fellow freedom loving people are being murdered and mistreated dailly, behind these jokes......any thoughts?
      February 24 at 7:48am ·  ·  2

    • Brian Vistaunet As a Christian, I believe Christ calls us to look at ourselves and where we are in the wrong, first (Matthew 7:4, 5). From my reading of that text, and other teachings of Christ, I personally find a "Yes, we are bad, but THEY ARE WORSE" approach to be pushing in the opposite direction of what Christ calls us to.

      That doesn't mean that we DON'T fight injustice against our fellow Christians. But our fight against injustice should never be limited to our own.

      February 24 at 9:29am ·  ·  3

    • Jodi Houghton I agree that a joke like this is distasteful and unchristian. However, I also understand why some people identify with the sentiments and repost jokes such as this. I think sometimes people feel powerless to fight out against what Muslim extremists do in the name of Allah and if they had the chance would want to defend against them- this may be their way of saying that they would. I also think that some people are unable to soundly and powerfully write out their opinions well and find it easier just to post something such as the "joke" you mentioned. And some people simply want to make the point that people who kill innocent people should be killed. Even some Christians may believe this is a biblically defend-able point of view. So, though I agree with your points and would never personally repost such an anecdote, it doesn't make me personally offended or angry when I see it. I simply feel sad that our world is so violent.

    • Jodi Houghton P.S. Totally agree about the accountability factor- that is so important.

    • Bryce Dahlin We all agree the joke was wrong...my point is we are quick and courageous at pointing the finger at our country as well as christians at every indiscretion but the horrors committed by other countries and faiths are politically incorrect to mention. I applaude the calling out of ignorance, but as you cup your hand and congratulate yourself with a drink from the bubbling brook of your vanquished, dont drop your eye on the stream beneath you, but bring water to your mouth as you keep your eyes on the horizon. There you will see a monstrous black sea of destruction and deceit surging towards our shores. The blackness of it so close that drops have already landed in our highest halls of academia and places of government.
      February 24 at 6:19pm ·  ·  2

    • Joseph Long Thanks for your comment, Bryce.

      First, because I say I like to eat pineapple does not mean I don't like to eat broccoli. It simply means that I am having a conversation about pineapple. I am not stating a preference about broccoli; it is simply not the focus of that particular conversation, just as my choice to discuss a very specific anecdote is not a value judgment on anything else, such as the worldwide persecution of Christian minorities. It simply means that it is part of a different discussion.

      Second, there is a very specific reason that I chose to publicly comment on this anecdote. That reason is because of the source it came from. It was posted by somebody who is both in a position of higher education and a person who is publicly part of the worldwide Adventist church; an organization that is part of the broader Christian community. That person's choice to repost this was inexcusable because of the leadership position they are in; a position that has the duty and mandate to educate - to teach how to think critically, and how to feel with empathy. I am offended on both an intellectual level and a faith level that this person would represent and perpetuate, in public fashion, a joke that is destructive, mean-spirited, and lacks any educational value. That was my number one issue when I chose to post: the source it came from, and the inexcusable failure to uphold the highest standards as part of both the Christian community and as part of a higher education organization (a university, in this case).

      Third, I like shortcuts. Shortcuts are great. Sometimes I get lost, because I am not very skilled at using maps :) Shortcuts are also handy for making huge assumptions about groups of people. I have experienced environments where people made gigantic assumptions about who I was based on a single label: "Oh, you're a Christian, therefore I can assume this and this and _____ about you." It did not do justice to the complexity of my life's philosophy and belief system. The problem is that most stereotypes have heavy doses of truth in them; that's why they're such convenient shortcuts. Though you did not state so in your comment, I know that you have served in the Armed Forces and have all respect for you and those in uniform. It would be a disservice to any Service member to assume that I know the totality of their beliefs because they share a uniform. A police officer does not get to choose who they protect; they protect all under their care because it is their mandate. I can only imagine the frustration that must sometimes exist for those sworn protectors to be in the position of defending the rights of those who disagree, or even disrespect them. At the same time, it is a privilege as well as a responsibility to defend the rights of those who disagree.

      Again, Bryce, my old friend, thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts and perspective - my intention is to be part of a conversation and to encourage critical thinking that looks beneath the surface of easily-digestible answers and microphone-ready soundbites. You have a unique life experience and perspective that I cannot presume to know completely. I respect that. I think I can also understand, to a certain degree, your reference to 'righteous indignation.' There are certainly atrocities committed across the world, many of them against Christians; I think that Christians should be leaders in fighting for justice and human rights. I don't think people need to agree in order to treat each other with respect; saying that 'they do this to us, therefore we can do this to them' is simply not respectful on any level. And, as stated previously, it continues that cycle of 'us versus them' that is anathema to any sort of potential reconciliation or understanding.

      In synopsis:
      One, I value dialogue and conversation. Just as I support the military (though I will not allow my patriotism to be questioned when I don't march lock-step with every military decision made), I support the State Department, and I support the right of people to disagree and engage in dialogue that values differing points-of-view and offers a path to increased understanding. Passing along jokes such as the one that started this post does not fall into this category. It creates a chasm between people that can only become larger the more it is perpetuated. As has happened on Facebook, via a person who has the degrees behind his name to know better.

      Two, because I choose to comment on an inflammatory joke that I consider an affront to my faith and intellect does not mean I am turning my back on other injustices. I do not believe in people choosing simple answers to complicated issues and creating zero-sum scenarios. Because I choose to disconnect myself from a joke that is demeaning, insulting, and inflammatory does not mean I embrace everything a particular group represents. I am so very tired of the easy road where someone extrapolates a person's entire belief system based on a single statement.

      Three, it's fairly easy to target a specific country, or ethnicity, or group...until you realize that every person in any group represents a distinct personality, a distinct set of views, and, from a Christian's viewpoint, a distinct individual important to God. It's easy to dislike a faceless group; it's much more challenging to actively choose to dislike an individual. Whether or not they share a belief in the same God is irrelevant. I am not a virulent pacifist; I am not a bumper sticker guy. But I do believe that wars should have an end; and I believe strongly that the way to begin ending a war demands healthy, deliberate rhetoric - with words, discussion, dialogue, and a basic respect for diverging perspectives and all human life.

      It is easy to slap a slogan on an automobile. Thank you to everyone, including those whose opinions differ from mine, for taking the time to respond in a thoughtful and contemplative way. I am glad to be who I am; I am glad that you are who you are and I love the metaphoric clanging of opinions and perspectives bouncing off each other. All respect.

      February 24 at 6:40pm ·  ·  6

    • Chad Bye One thing I find interesting, you don't hear much from the mainstream muslim community condemning innocent violence. Where's the outrage from the community from beheadings or mutilation of innocent women and children, even some that have happened here in the U.S.? Sure, an LDS fundamentalist wacko does something crazy, but the LDS mainstream church is the first to say that is wrong, etc.
      February 24 at 7:35pm ·  ·  1

    • Sue Long Joseph, I've been trying to formulate thoughts into words today. You just eloquently said what I would like to have said---and more. Your explanation as to why you were compelled to write, beyond the "joke" itself, speaks to my soul. Thank-you for respectfully using your voice to ignite thoughtful dialogue
      February 24 at 7:37pm ·  ·  4

    • Chad Bye But an innocent kid decides to put a bomb on his chest, or a father decides to mutilate his daughter because she fell in love with someone of other faith... and there's no "real" outrage from the community. and we are so politically correct, we cannot talk opening about this and how it's an issue for fear of being called ignorant, racist, or whatever else.
      February 24 at 7:37pm ·  ·  1

    • Sue Long Just hit the button too soon! Oops! Wasn't quite done. Meant to say inspire thoughtful dialogue and ignite the power of love, for ultimately, that's what it's all about. I'm honored to keep learning from you. Mom xoxo

    • Chad Bye this is obviously a large topic of discussion - I do appreciate your perspective, indeed.
      February 24 at 7:43pm ·  ·  1

    • Leanna Long There are all kinds of abominable atrocities occurring throughout the world in the name of, well, something. People choose to commit terrible, horrible acts of violence in the name of what they believe in. Understandable? No. Excusable? Absolutely not. I don’t disagree with any of these points. And from the perspective of someone in the military (Bryce, I think!? :), you see and know more firsthand than I these acts of violence. I can't imagine what it must be like to have an up close and personal knowledge of that kind…I have tremendous respect for those who protect me and my rights. From the perspective of someone in the public education realm, I see firsthand many of the attitudes that contribute to and, sadly, may one day lead to acts of violence against others due to hatred, resentment, frustration, and not having learned how to deal with those emotions.

      I completely agree that resentment and helplessness can occur when people have not learned how to dialogue and direct their strong convictions and beliefs about justice in a positive manner. What I don’t agree with is encouraging a negative and simple-minded approach to facing those feelings. If someone feels strongly enough about an issue to share a story such as the aforementioned post, why not get involved in whatever way you can? Why pass on such an ugly “joke”? There are many constructive outlets for managing frustration against injustice (see a few examples below). Injustice in this world, well, sucks. And I believe that, as a Christian, I am called to get offended and yes, maybe even a little angry when other Christians re-tell stories like this. Because I don’t want that person to represent me. To represent my Christ. My God gets offended at even small bits of injustice and hateful attitudes.

      Is the sharing of this “joke” really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of the universe? No, realistically probably not. But it is attitudes like this, multiplied over and over and over, that spawn hatred towards others. I vehemently disagree with the persecution of any single group of people. My fellow Christians, my friends who claim atheism, my friends who are Jewish, my friends who choose to follow the Muslim or Hindu faith…all have the right to NOT be persecuted for what they believe. Even if I disagree. And I would defend any of those rights in a heartbeat. But I don’t think that was the point of the original comment here.

      Bringing it back to what I see as the original message...

      A) Tasteless jokes such as this are not funny. They are a cowardly way of making a person feel like they’ve ‘taken a stance’. It does nothing constructive nor does it share an attitude of Love. I do not see any circumstance where re-posting this is acceptable.

      B) Facebook is a semi-public forum where you can post just about anything you want. And while I respect the Right to post anything, I don’t think it IS Right to post something like this, specifically if you are in the position of leadership in an institution of Higher Learning. A major component in the beginning of this thread was the source that the story originated from. As was stated above, for a 15 year old to share this story with another 15 year old…is it poor taste? Absolutely. But if you are in a position of leadership and respect and you post a story like this…? You just lost all credibility with me.

      February 24 at 7:59pm ·  ·  6

    • Leanna Long Some thoughts on getting involved in something you care about...

      1) The Good News About Injustice, by Gary A. Haugen

      2) Swimming Against the Current, by Chris Blake

      3) International Justice Mission: http://www.ijm.org/?gclid=CIntnpK6t64CFQV_hwodiBqFqQ

      4) Amnesty International: http://www.amnestyusa.org/get-involved

      5) American Civil Liberties Union: http://www.aclu.org/

      I just asked President Barack Obama to end modern-day slavery. Will you join me? Click below to add your voice: http://bit.ly/zY4asE
      February 24 at 8:01pm ·  ·  4 · 

    • Leanna Long Wow, I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful comments and ideas. Thanks for getting involved. :)
      February 24 at 8:02pm ·  ·  1

    • Sue Long Well said! Thank-you Leanna! Xoxo

    • Bryce Dahlin Joseph, thank you for your post and follow-up comments. I appreciate you standing up for whats right. I smile when I see people courageously voicing their concern when inspired to do so. After reading your post and the subsequent dozen comments following it, I too, felt inspired to write some thoughts about the subject at large. I agree with your comment and calling out of the joke in its original form, but there is a much bigger, misunderstood issue just beneath the surface that people are afraid to confront. I see a great percentage of westerners do not understand Islam and the laws associated with it. I see a great naivete in the west concerning the culture and laws of the east...to the detriment I believe of the west. Love your muslim neighbor, but be wary of Islam. Sharia law dominates its existence and global caliphate is its leaders goal, as taught in their holy books. In the west muslims in general are not as defiant and belligerent in forcing their beliefs on the local people, but make no mistake, if our country was weak, and they were able, there would be a dozen islamic theocracies racing to dominate, subdue and control each one of us. Having high ideals of peace, love and all religions coming together and living side by side are great, and possible when kept in check by a great governing document "the Constitution". But if allowed some of these religions, some of our very neighbors would burn that great document to the ground. Spend one week in a muslim country, spend one day in a muslim city. There are some places you would not last a day, and all the intellectual thought and high moral superiority would be brushed aside in a 130 degree desert second, when you come too and your tied to a chair with a hood draped over your face. The hood is removed and you are forced to read a confession about something you never did, but you read it for the camera anyway because your high ideals fall on deaf ears. And after you read the statement but just before the hooded figure behind you uses the ceremonial scimitar to remove your head from your shoulders, you would give anything to see that same fellow christian, fellow American whom you called out in your original post, walk through that door. Because that American would be the only one in that room who loved you, that Christian would be the only one in that room who would hold your hand and cry for you, and would be the only one in that room that would take that sword stroke for you. So call out the sophomoric jokes of your fellow countryman, for it was inappropriate and really no joke at all. But be gentle in doing so, for he loves freedom for everyone and I would venture to say would not want to see anyone die, quite the contrary, would vehemently oppose such reality. Your muslim friends Im sure are good and decent people, but I would argue they, if push came to shove, would not stand in the way if their leadership, and the their majority came for you. But I would highly argue that your Christian brother would. Again, I love the Longs, you are my lifelong friends and you are a proud and noble clan :). I have enjoyed your comments and the discussion greatly.
      February 25 at 7:57am ·  ·  1

    • Joseph Long Bryce,
      Thank you again for the time you have put into articulating your thoughts. Each one of us has a different lens we choose to view the world through - some have the perspective of being involved in Education, some via the Military, some from Journalism, others in International Business, some from the East or West, or from any number of other lenses. We each choose to frame our beliefs on how we see any given situation based on that lens...and it is easy to get locked into formulating opinions based only on that particular lens. I appreciate the perspective you have, and though I think we shall probably continue to have some significant differences of opinion on these topics, I really respect the fact that you have chosen to thoughtfully respond based on your life experience and view from your lens. It is much easier to wear t-shirts or slap on bumper stickers proudly stating our alliance to this or our opposition to that...it is much more challenging to have the confidence to lay out your beliefs and the respect to listen to others and not resort to throwing (verbal) stones. As you might have deduced from some of my above statements, my opinions are frequently as strong as anyone's (smile); at the same time, it is my hope to be someone who can always learn from others, who does not get drowned out by the sound of my own voice, and who is willing to listen and respect those thoughts diverging from my own. The point at which I stop respecting and leap into action* is the point at which I see someone trying to drown out someone else's voice. Thank you for having strong opinions and for being willing to share them. I love the Dahlins, and am honored to be a lifelong friend with another proud and noble clan. You have a beautiful family and I look forward to meeting them someday. I have enjoyed our conversation here greatly as well. Take care, my friend.

      February 25 at 9:44am ·  ·  3

    • Walter Cox Like most things in life, you can (almost) always find what you are looking for. There are many examples of prominent Muslim leaders denouncing violence. There are also lots of examples of prominent Muslim leaders calling for violence. We could throw Koran quotes at each other all day about Sharia law and how it's going to take over our system of government, or live beside us in peace. But none of that matters. What matters is how I react. I refuse to live in fear. I try to look for the best in others, and I am also armed, you know, just in case...
      February 25 at 10:30am ·  ·  2

    • Kathie Huffman Joseph, I still say you need to be published! Your command of language and ability to 'cut through the fat' of serious issues.... as well as inserting humor when appropriate, needs to be published!
      February 25 at 11:21am ·  ·  3

    • William Weatherby If I was an educated man, if I had a large vocabulary and the ability to arrange the words in a way that would convey my thoughts and feelings about tasteless jokes and the people of Islam, that so-called religion of peace, it would at best sound something like what Bryce wrote.
      At the same time, we shouldn't joke about killing Muslims, it's serious business.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Love to hear from you. Thanks for your comments!