Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Thoughts on Elizabeth Moon and Wiscon

SF3 has formally announced that it has withdrawn it's Wiscon 35 Guest of Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon. While there is no explanation of why, it's pretty certain it's related to her blog post "Citizenship" from September 11th.

I find myself conflicted over this. I understand where SF3 is coming from. Many found Moon's posting deeply offensive, including some of the Wiscon staff. On the other hand, it does create ill-will and paint the con in a bad light for many, including those who have already pre-registered and paid looking forward to seeing Moon there as GoH.

But yet, when I think though this I find I ultimately agree with SF3's action. This was not a kneejerk, spur-of-the-moment decision. Moon's post was on September 11th. SF3 made their public announcement on October 21st. It is fairly obvious there was a long internal conversation about this (with some staffers threatening to quit if Moon remained GoH). Ultimately, I think SF3 decided that given the public conversation about Moon at the moment, that was not the particular conversation they want framing their con. Which is solely in their right.

If you go back and read Moon's post, she makes the point that new immigrates must assimilate to survive, and that is their duty as a good citizen. On the surface, this is a fairly innocuous statement -- until you probe deeper. The United States is a melting pot in which different cultures have come together to create a new, shared culture. But new cultures are continually entering into the pot, and rather than embracing and accepting them into the mix, American discourse has focused on excluding them. This is the case with the immigration debate, and the anti-Muslim hysteria that has undertaken our nation. I find this extremely disturbing and hypocritical.

Focusing on Muslim-Americans for a moment, I have to ask Who cares? Muslim hatred is no different than anti-Semitism or anti-Catholcism, or racism, or any other form of -ism out there. It is the painting of an entire group based on the actions of a subset of that group, or the belief in a stereotype that is not entirely true. We don't associate all Baptists with Fred Phelps, and we shouldn't associate all Muslims with Al Qaeda. Then there are those who not only continue to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, but say it as it's a bad thing -- by spouting such rhetoric, they are only exposing themselves as the bigots they are. But they are only the tip of a larger anti-Muslim voice that has been steadily gaining traction in the country.

The thought that "assimilation" is their only hope of success is deeply offensive when you consider what such assimilation would entail. For many, religion and culture are intrinsically intertwined, and to do without one is to do without the other. In France, this mindset has led to a law banning the burqa. While I would like to believe that something like that would not happen here, I would have never believed it would happen in France, either.

Moon's post sounds very reasonable, but it is indicative of moderate America, believing that the immigrant has a responsibility to compromise their culture but that those who are already here do not have the corresponding responsibility to accept this new culture. This speaks to a deeper societal issue of intolerance that needs to be addressed in order for America to continue to be the America founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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