Susan Duncan


I heard the word and my heart sank. The man wasn’t talking about refuse that’s collected and taken to a landfill.

No, he was using the word to describe people. A whole group of people.

With dismissive authority, he said, “Muslims are trash. Every one of ’em.”

He was conversing with a woman as the two were seated near the prescription counter of a local chain drug store. I had wandered into that area in search of an item on my shopping list. Unfortunately, I overheard his world view as I compared products and prices.

How had the man become such an expert on the followers of Islam, I wondered. Had he studied them to know with absolute certainty that Muslims — who number nearly a quarter of the world’s population — all are trash?

Plug in any people of faith from any religion into his original quote: Hindus. Jews. Buddhists.

What if he had said, “Christians are trash. Every one of ’em”? That surely would offend the sensibilities of any followers of Jesus who happened to be within earshot.

So, why is it OK to lump all Muslims together, into the same heap as it were?

The woman tried to add some perspective, I think.

We grew up here, she told her seat mate, and you know as well as I do that there’s white trash, too. The man readily agreed, adding in some blacks, as well. Apparently trash knows no color. It also doesn’t differentiate between heritage and religion.

I wanted to insert myself into their garbage gab, but I knew I wouldn’t change their minds, and I could almost hear the 911 call to police referencing a trio of gray-haired folks scuffling at the pharmacy. It could have gotten ugly in a hurry.

So, my purchase decided, I walked toward the checkout counter, burdened by their words.

The comments struck me as judgmental. Who sits in such an exalted place that they can look down upon others?

Troubling, too, was the casualness of the conversation. The pair just as easily could have been discussing the weather, or the merits of M&Ms vs. Reese’s peanut butter cups.

If I were to label the musings I overheard, I’d call it hate speech. Hate grows from fear, which is rooted in the unknown or the unfamiliar.

In a world of seven and a half billion people, is there anyone as worthy as are we? Anyone?

Maybe we should find out, before passing judgment.

Susan Duncan is the editor of the News and Tribune. Reach her at 812-206-2130 and susan.duncan@newsandtribune.com.

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