OKC - Festival of the Arts AND the Islamic Terror Felines

My set at the 2016 OKC Festival of the Arts.

In  mid April I attended the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City (this blog post was first published at my old web site on May 2, 2016), this is the 4th year I have done this show and have been well pleased with the results each year. This year I had an unfortunate encounter with a Muslim lady and her two young children. She had seen my "I Want You" composition and was deeply offended and felt that it was completely inappropriate. We argued and she eventually went away.
I believe it was the next day that she came back and handed me a letter she had written, asking that I read it. It wasn't until a few days later when I returned home did I read it. I was shocked at the clarity of thought.   Aside from redacting her name and email I will re-print it in it's entirety. I think it's an incredible document that speaks to being Muslim in our "fear based society" (my quotes). Please read it carefully, and when it's time, vote Democratic.

This addition is added 12/12/16. Voting democratic didn't help. We now have to look forward to four years of autocratic terrorism from the presidential suite. Please read the letter below, there are thousands of such victims living in fear. God help us all. 

Festival of the Arts
April 24, 2016
Dear Jay Thompson,
I want to apologize for my behavior yesterday. I was the one who took a photograph of the picture you had in your gallery depicting a cat as Uncle Sam, recruiting others to fight the "Islamic Terror Felines." When I had calmed down enough to think clearly about it, I realized there had been no need for me to get so upset, and I wanted to put things right. You may or may not be receptive to reading this, but I hope you do.

It had been an irritating morning—nothing at the Festival was ready for little kids, even though the website listed the starting time as 10 am rather than 11—and I was heading home with a disappointed child. But it has also been a challenging year, where I lost my mother to a terrible disease, and my husband lost his job, among other things. I have been watching the news with growing trepidation, and I feel scared living here in what is supposed to be my home now, after 25 years, when I hear prominent figures call for people like me to be kicked out. But I should not have let all that turn me into a reactionary too. The cycle has to end somewhere. 

I wrote much of the following before I looked you up. Can you imagine how mortified I felt when I realized your politics and world view made you, in my eyes, one of the good guys? (Heck, I voted for Bernie earlier this month!) So I guess I'm preaching to the choir, in a sense... But I had to write to you. My mother would not be proud of me if I didn't; both my parents did teach me right from wrong, and good manners. I know that's hard to believe after my outburst, but people do strange things when they're scared. (Oklahoma is not the most open-minded state I've ever lived in; I've become quite leery of strangers over the years.) What you say on your website about your youthful dream for this country being gone: I feel something similar, that the promise of the United States, what I looked forward to as a young immigrant a quarter of a century ago, is evaporating, and I am left quite disillusioned.
I love cats. My eye was first caught by the large picture on the front of your display, of a cat dressed in Egyptian garb—especiallyclose to my heart, as that is my heritage. Then I saw the words "Islamic Terror" on another picture and immediately thought, "Oh, here we go again!" 1 looked at the photo on my phone of the feline Uncle Sam: To be honest, that picture is not really offensive after all. It's actually kind of funny. I remember laughing at similar pictures of cats dressed as terrorists and criminals in Belgium last winter, after the Paris attacks; the Belgians were approaching the warnings their government was giving them with humor. I thought it was wonderful and showed how strong they were, how hope and a positive outlook must prevail against such darkness... When the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo published those caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, I was not in favor of all the violent reactions, but I did wish that those French journalists would show a little respect for one of the three great Abrahamic faiths, and not hide their rudeness behind the banner of free speech. They painted millions of people with the same blood-stained brush. It's not fair, and it's not right. Jesus would never be attacked like that in a newspaper of a predominantly Muslim country; he is a holy figure in Islam, as is his mother Mary, as well as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Noah, etc. It is just unthinkable there to direct such "jokes" at any of the messengers of God.
Terror has no religion. That would be the only thing I would have to say about the caption. Those men over there, they terrify all of us. They've killed many more Muslims than non-Muslims. Most of us are not religious enough for them, at least the way they seem to think it should be: a prison of rules. They have no sense of the divine at all. They are a bunch of thugs and criminals, young unemployed men with no sense of purpose, drifting through life when all of a sudden they are allowed to enforce archaic laws and experience the thrill of shooting people and cowing others into obeying them. It's sickening, and a destructive force that has been unleashed from who knows where. I don't believe anyone really knows the truth about these men's origins or who's really behind them. You may disagree. But most Muslims just want to work, raise their families, and do what's right. Wackos like those guys spoil everything, for all of us.
Anyway, I'm sorry for upsetting you. I don't even know if you are he artist or were manning the booth for the artist. (Update: I took the time to go to the Arts Festival website to look you up; you describe yourself as a curmudgeon on your website, but I'm afraid I was the curmudgeon yesterday.) But I want you to know that I have deleted the photo from my phone. I would not publish it, online or any where else, as I have a healthy respect for the rule of law (including copyright law). I was mortified when my three-year-old leaned on the big Egyptian cat picture and almost made it fall. My instinct was to walk back to you and help you hang it back up securely, but I knew back then that it was too late and that you would tell me to go away.
But I don't want to leave this as a negative interaction. The pictures you have for sale are intriguing, and I wish I had taken the time to peruse them more leisurely, and to talk to you about them. That's how I normally behave. This atmosphere of fear and exclusion has me jittery and nervous, I guess. I saw the word "Islamic" and it triggered all kinds of fears in my head. It wasn't that long ago that Japanese were interned here, and Jews were herded into camps in Germany. What if people like me are targeted soon? It is terrifying—another source of terror. If I could afford it, I would buy one of your pieces. As it is, these days I am working as much as I can and worrying about paying bills... I hope you accept my apology. And that you continue to produce your art and exhibit it to grateful and appreciative festival-goers like myself. I promise to take some time to think before I react next time. And like you say on your website, I will choose to be by the light. Thank you for your beautiful and thought-provoking art.


Sincerely, J

I found this online, I don't know the gentleman BUT I certainly agree with what he has to say...

To All My Republican Friends,

I am tired; I am tired of talking politics. This will be my last political post on Facebook. I am tired of being called ignorant o...r a communist. I am tired of people asking me to leave the country. I am an American and I am patriotic. I have as much right to my opinion as you do yours. I am educated; I try very hard not to post false information when arguing my points and I certainly would never ask anyone to leave the country if they did not agree with me. Most importantly I do not believe, write or say anything before I spend time to research it.
That being said I would like to explain why I am a Democrat and why I fear the extreme right.

First why am I a Democrat?

1) I believe all people should be guaranteed medical care, housing, food and an education.
2) I believe all people should be equal regardless of their race, religion or sexual preference.
3) I support a woman’s right to choose.
4) I believe in diplomacy before war.
5) I believe in a separation of church and state.
6) I believe in Background checks and better safety measures for guns while still protecting 2nd amendment rights.
7) I believe in protecting our earth by protecting endangered species, protecting our water, forests, and air and investing in ways to reverse/slow down global warming.
8) I believe in putting regulations on corporations and holding CEO’s responsible if they participate in fraudulent activities or break the law.
9) I believe in higher taxes on the rich, fewer taxes for working people and no taxes on the poor.
10) I believe we should raise the minimum wage.

Now for these beliefs I have been called ignorant, communist, an ass, un-American and of course asked to leave the country. I don’t believe there is anything extreme about my beliefs. I can understand a Republican's concern about the cost of guaranteeing medical care, housing, food and education for everyone. However, I do not understand why wanting to help fellow Americans is bad. It is my belief that America is the greatest country in the world and if other countries can provide these services to their citizens we can find a way to do it as well.

I also understand that some religions prohibit abortions, I respect that. I will admit the abortion question is a tricky one. However, when you live in a country like America where there are so many different beliefs there will be times when we don’t agree or understand each other. Because of that we have to be tolerant even if we do not agree or understand each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t believe what you believe but you should not try to force your values onto others. Orthodox Jews don’t believe in eating pork. You may say that is different than abortion but to the Orthodox Jew eating pork is a very serious thing. Imagine if they tried to get everyone in the United States to stop eating pork? That would be crazy.

As far as the rest of my beliefs I cannot believe any of it should be controversial.

Why I fear the extreme right. (Remember I am talking about the extreme right not all Republicans or Christians.)

1) No respect for the law.
2) No respect for the office of the President
3) No respect for science
4) No respect or tolerance for other races, religions or political beliefs
5) Spreading false information to instill fear
6) Their first choice is to bomb all our enemies

A Militia that takes over a federal building and then threatens to protect themselves with weapons cannot be called a protest, it is criminal. A protest is peaceful with no weapons.

Preventing someone from getting a marriage license because they are gay is against the law if your job requires you to do that and you don’t want to either quit your job or turn your duties over to someone else.

Bombing an Abortion Clinic because you're against Abortion is not ok.

This country has due process. If you disagree with a law you can use our judicial system and take it all the way to the Supreme Court. But once the Supreme Court rules on something it becomes the law of the land and we ALL have to follow it. That is what civil people do. We have a process in which each side gets to present their side and then have a ruling. There will always be a winner and a loser. In a civil society you have to respect the ruling even if you don’t agree with it. Those are the rules we have played by for over 240 years.

In many of my discussions with those on the right they have referred to the President in the following terms “it”, “that wanna be black President”, “monkey” and other derogatory terms. Again this is not ok and should never happen in a civil society. President Obama is a professor of constitutional law. He has experience in government and has been elected President not once but twice by the American People. You may not agree with his politics but that is not an excuse to be disrespectful. I disagreed with Bush’s policies but if I ever met him in person I would still refer to him as Mr. President. Doing anything else would be disrespectful not only to the president but to 50% of American population.

I don’t understand this backlash against science. The Scientific Method is a process. Once this method is applied and another person can duplicate the result it then becomes fact. A fact is not debatable. 2 + 2 = 4. Only an uneducated person or a crazy person could argue that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4. You cannot deny that temperatures have been getting warmer on Earth. It’s a fact not open for debate. We can debate as to the reasons why the earth is warming, I.E. natural occurrence or manmade. Either way the outcome doesn’t look good. It would seem wise to try and do something about it. There are so many other scientific facts being completely ignored by the extremists. Logic and reason are the best way to make the right decision.

The most frightening part of the extreme right is the belief that this is a Christian Nation. It is not a Christian nation. It is a nation in which people are free to practice ANY religion they like or no religion. The constitution was not written to protect the majority, it was written to protect the minority no matter how small, to protect individual rights. That is why there is a separation of church and state. You learn about religion in Churches, Synagogues and Mosques. School is for Math, English and Science not for religion. That is a personal choice reserved for family members. The key here is we respect all religions. The same is true for race and sexual preference. Trump calling Mexicans rapist and lazy is just un-American. The idea of registering members of an entire religion is also un-American. Condemning a whole religion because a small group of them are radical extremist is crazy. That is why I will not condemn all Republicans. Telling me to leave the country because I don’t believe what you believe is not American. My 70 year old mother was actually threatened because she had an Obama bumper sticker on her car. This country does not belong to the extreme right; it belongs to all of us.

Another dangerous practice is the spreading of false information. Even after proof has been presented of Obama’s US birth certificate people still claim Obama is not an American. They also claim he is a Muslim, also not true. I recently saw a photo shopped picture of a Student ID card that said Obama was a Foreign Student. When I pointed out that it was photo shopped and proven to be false I was called ignorant and an ass. Another photo shopped picture shows Obama and Michelle saluting the flag with their left hand also proven to be false. Even Fox called Obama’s executive order Obama’s Gun Grab which is irresponsible and inflammatory and completely false. The misinformation and propaganda has to stop. There are people that believe a missile hit the pentagon and not a plane on 9/11. Well, my wife used to work on Capitol Hill and still has a lot of friends there. One friend was at the pentagon an saw the plane crash into it. It was definitely a plane. All I ask is that we discuss the issues using facts. False information that causes fear is a tactic to control people. Don’t fall for it.

Bombing is not the solution to all problems. Before the second Iraq war I tried to tell everyone it was a mistake to attack Iraq. I didn’t understand why we would attack Iraq when most all the 9/11 attackers were Saudi. I didn’t believe there were weapons of mass destruction. I believed the daily terrorist alert status, you remember one day yellow, the next day orange was a fear tactic to get the American people to support the war. Back then like today I was asked to leave the country, called ignorant, an ass and a communist for speaking out against the war. Turns out I was right. Recently, when 10 members of our Navy were taken captive for trespassing in Iranian waters the extreme right candidates all said they would have bombed Iran. In the meantime our president who improved relations with Iran was able to get the 10 Americans released within 14 hours. What people forget is we were in the wrong. We were in their territory.

I don’t have all the answers on how to fix this country. However my opinion is to be respected and not dismissed. Republicans might have great ideas on how to fix the economy but I am afraid I will not be listening to those ideas until the extremist stop the hate speech and agree that this is not just their country but it belongs to all of us no matter what religion or race you we belong to. Democrat, Republican, heterosexual or gay it belongs to all of us equally. I would fight and die to protect the right for someone for their right to practice Christianity in this country. However, I don’t want to be told I am going to hell because I am not a Christian. I don’t want Christianity taught to my kids in school. I am not Christian but I am an American. A true American not only fights for the rights of Christians but they also fight for the rights of Jews, Atheists and Muslims, African Americans, Hispanics, and Gays. Of course in the end it will be compromise that will save this country. Without compromise we become the Middle East. Groups and factions that disagree with no compromise or give and that can only lead to violence with no winners. Respect, honesty and compromise is the only way to keep this country great!

I am not doing this to change anyone's mind I am doing this because I am an American and it is my right to have my beliefs and live my life as I do. I only ask that you respect that. After all tolerance and respect of another's belief is the most American thing you can do.

If you agree feel free to share this post.

Scott Cook
American, Liberal, Human Being