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Team Juan

by Andrea Updyke

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It’s been a while since I hopped on my political soap box, but today I am so outraged that I decided to dust it off.

Today the news broke that Juan Williams has been fired from his job with NPR due to his honest expression of a moment of anxiety when he gets on a plane with persons clearly dressed in “muslim garb”. If you haven’t seen the quote, here ya go:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

This morning he shared his account of the phone call he had with NPR when he was fired and he was told that he “crossed a line” with his comment.

(insert screeching noise here)

I’m sorry, WHAT?

The fact is that people [in the name of Islam] committed acts of terror on U.S. soil, killing thousands and leaving scars in the hearts of millions USING AN AIRPLANE on 9/11.

It is what it is.

In this case, Williams was not saying that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to fly, but that as an unfortunate bi-product of the horrible events of 9/11 he has an unwanted thought jump into his mind. It’s a reminder, not a criticism.

Further, while it seems obvious (to me), I would like to point out to NPR that Islam is not a race and to be fired from one’s job on grounds of biggotry for expressing an honest and likely unwanted reaction to the reality of the world in which we live is outrageous. One could make the same case for how Christians or Catholics “scare” them because of their belief system if one doesn’t agree with it. In fact Williams made that very point during the same interview with Bill O’Reilly saying, “Christians shouldn’t be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.”

There are crazy people in this world who believe crazy things. Scary people do things in the name of every religion. When I am in unfamiliar territory, I often have random news stories pop into my head about a mugging here or a kidnapping there. I feel vulnerable and start to look around at everyone as a suspect. It’s not something I want to do, but as a human being, there are times when I experience fear.

As Americans we have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On a basic national level, this should not be taken away based upon our expression of human emotion. If nothing else, Williams’ admission should be used as a springboard for discussion on how we can continue to heal as a country.

When did tolerance become so intolerant?

NPR, you should be ashamed.

For the record I am a long time NPR supporter, both financially and publicly. For this reason, I feel personally let down by their decision to fire Juan Williams.

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15 comments

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15 comments

Ginger October 21, 2010 - 2:21 pm

I agree 1000%. Heartbroken that NPR would choose to treat Juan this way.

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Paige October 21, 2010 - 2:38 pm

Right on.

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Paige October 21, 2010 - 2:48 pm

… and great question:

“When did tolerance become so intolerant?”

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Angie October 21, 2010 - 2:56 pm

I was just talking to a co-worker today (not having heard about this yet) about how for a country who preaches tolerance, it is amazing how intolerant it has become. America is no longer the land of the free.

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Les Lawrence October 21, 2010 - 3:53 pm

It is no longer enough to be liberal to be on NPR, or the ONLY black correspondent. Now, you must also censor what you say about Muslims. Soon there will be nothing left to report. With the rise of Islamic terrorism worldwide (virtually every violent conflict on earth has one or both Islamic protagonists), an awful lot of the real hard news out there is on the subject. We are going to need a new influx of heartwarming animal stories to fill the newscasts.

My favorite blogger makes a good point that Islam is not a race. There are Muslims in most countries and ethnic groups in the world. Stop the “bigot” defense. (Disclaimer: she happens to be my daughter).

There needs to be serious analysis of the real threat posed by the political and religious ideology of world conquest of Islam. Also, please stop with the “millions of moderates” defense. Since there are 1.5 billion adherents to Islam, consider that if only one per cent were suicide bombers it would be 15 million radicals we should watch out for. This is a plea for sanity. There is a real threat out there. What per cent of Germans were Nazis? Most Germans were not. The problem is when the crazies take over and impose their will on the moderates. That is exactly what is happening to moderate Muslims.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for the whole world, including Muslims. Every person has the invitation to renounce their pagan past or unbelief and accept Jesus as the son of God. This is the religious difference between Islam and the Bible. The Koran explicitly and adamantly denies that its god is a father or that Jesus is the son of God. The Bible defines that position as the very essence of the spirit of anti-Christ.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is anti-Christ who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23

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Montana October 21, 2010 - 5:24 pm

Good for NPR, Juan Williams slant belongs to “Fake News” with the rest of the failed political candidstes Palin, Huckabee, or should I say the 2012 GOP Presidential contenders. They are not racist they are just the good old boys. They are the bunch that keep saying that everyong should be scared of BLACKS, scared of ASIANS, sacred of LATINOS, scared of WOMEN, scared of the GAYS and now they are scared of Muslims. So long Johnny,don’t let the door hit you. I love that you went crying to “Fake News” and played the victim card, I guess its another “it is a high-tech lynching”.

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Fadra October 22, 2010 - 10:03 pm

Wow – strong comments from someone who seems to be making sweeping generalizations. Not even about conservatives but about Republicans specifically!! I have to agree with Andrea here. People that preach tolerance (which I assume might be yourself) should be tolerant of others that admit to their own personal fears, even though they might feel them unjustified. I’m not sure where the anger truly stems from even when it is directed at “the other side.”

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Kimberly October 21, 2010 - 6:31 pm

All I have to say is BOOYA and AMEN

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Ginger October 21, 2010 - 9:38 pm Reply
Jen October 21, 2010 - 10:29 pm

I totally agree with you and am glad to see you post about this.

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@sweetbabboo October 21, 2010 - 11:57 pm

Hey Andrea,

So I’m gonna have to disagree and I hope to do it respectfully.

You see, the first I heard about this story was with your post. I haven’t had my computer opened at all today, but after reading your post, I did agree with you. It didn’t make sense that NPR would fire him for stating a personal opinion.

However, I thought on it for quite a while longer. I remembered a segment I heard back during the Obama/McCain elections. It was a segment discussing how NPR reporters were maintaining their journalistic integrity amidst the very intense, very heated political season. That was when I first heard about how NPR journalists are not allowed to display any kind of political affiliation – no yard signs, no t-shirts, no contributing. They were encouraged to vote but the voicing of their political opinion was unacceptable. The concern was that if the journalists became too involved in a particular candidate, it might impair their ability to present unbiased articles and it would definitely taint a listener’s view of their journalistic integrity.

I remember thinking how very difficult that must be for the journalists and their families who were also affected. But, I remember feeling how fair and logical the policy seemed. I wanted my journalists to report the news not analyze it for me. That’s why I listen to NPR.

So, as I read further into the Juan Williams story, I thought of that. Juan Williams represents NPR whenever he is being interviewed as a journalist. Therefore it is my belief that he needed to respect NPR’s policies. It seems to me that they had given him the opportunity to stop flaunting the rules by first asking that FOX news didn’t label him as an NPR journalist.

In America today, the line between news reporting and editorializing/opining has become blurred. It seems that NPR simply wants to maintain which side of the line they are on – the side of news reporting. Juan Williams, on the other hand, was pushing more towards a role as a pundit.

I hope that FOX news will be able to fulfill his desire to become more pundit than journalist and I wish him all the best in his new position.

My other disagreement is in regards to the belief that his statements were not bigoted. While it may be the case that a person (myself included) has moments when his/her subconscious takes over and seeps an irrational thought of fear based on another person’s appearance into his/her brain, that does not make it alright to vocalize it. Change the location from airplane to convenience store and the discriminated race to an African-American and it clearly becomes a case of bigotry.

Not to in anyway devalue your opinion, I just wanted to share my take on the whole thing. Sorry for the long, windy comment. I’ll restrain from the comment take-overs in the future. 😉

-Abby

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Andrea October 22, 2010 - 8:36 am

Abby, thank you so much for commenting! I appreciate your willingness to post a different opinion. I totally see your points but I wanted to add two things about my perspective. I would love to keep an open dialog.

One is that Juan Williams is a Political Analyst. Even for NPR so his role wasn’t strictly that of a reporter. He did have a little bit more liberty to share his opinions, which he did frequently defending liberal principles.

Secondly, and this one might get me in trouble, but your transfer of the situation from a Muslim in an airport to an African American in a convenience store does not say bigotry to me. That is the point I am trying to make, that as Americans who are faced with different cultures all day every day in theory, many of us are still surrounded in our personal lives by people who look and act just like us. So if I feel uneasy around any different culture and I am willing to confront that truth, like it or not, and say it out loud, does that make me a bigot? I think America could actually work on some of these issues of racism and bigotry if we would be willing to admit to these feelings.

One more example, we were recently invited to a birthday party for our neighbor’s grandson. He is the same age as Oscar and we decided to go. We were the only white people there and had NO idea how awkward we would feel. We felt bad for feeling that way because we love our neighbors and wanted to celebrate. We were honestly surprised and it led to some really healthy discussion for the next few days. I also think it gave us a tiny glimpse into how it must feel for minorities on a regular basis.

All that to say, I am not ashamed of those feelings. I believe that respectful and productive transparency is imperative to honestly dealing with challenges. And I just don’t think that is bigotry. I want to be one big happy family but the fact is, we have baggage.

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Michelle October 22, 2010 - 9:35 am

I feel that a news journalist should (whether they do or not is a different subject) maintain a fair amount of neutrality about subjects when discussing them on the job, regardless of their own personal views.

I’m not saying that what he personally felt was wrong or right, instead, that he shouldn’t have expressed them in a situation where he was clearly representing NPR as a commentator and employee.

And maybe he does honestly feel that way, maybe many of us do, but should we? Shouldn’t we all strive to be fair and less judgmental/suspicious of others if we are all equal in God’s eyes?

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Sue Robinson October 22, 2010 - 10:19 am

WOOT! Standing up and fight bumping with you! You go sister, I agree 100%. Plus, this was such a well written post Andrea! You go!

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Fadra October 22, 2010 - 10:14 pm

Responding to Abby and just giving my own general opinion on this…

Having fears about another person based on race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation is not completely unjustified. Acting on those fears are where prejudice and bigotry enter.

Let’s also be clear. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Muslims hate America. But there are Muslim terrorists and Muslim citizens who chant “death to America.” If you don’t believe me, turn on the evening news. Should we feel love for these people? Should we feel tolerance and understanding when it isn’t in our hearts and will never ben reciprocated?

Just watched a documentary on North Korea. It is truly a cult-like society there where the citizens are taught to worship Kim Jong-Il. Whether they do it out of admiration or fear is unknown but their hatred of America and their wish for our demise is clear.

There is no right answer but until people stop preaching that fear and loathing cannot be tolerated (unless it’s directed at the conservatives in this country), I find that the cycle of intolerance continues.

I realize I got dangerously off topic here but I agree that a political analyst has more leeway when it comes to opinions than a strictly unbiased journalist.

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