Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Why all the fuss over Rashard Mendenhall?
The increasingly controversial Steelers Running Back Rashard Mendenhall took to Twitter yesterday to espouse his views on the death of Osama bin Laden. Needless to say, his thoughts were really not a majority position.
His other tweets included:
"We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style"
"I believe in God. I believe we're ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge."
"For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and piss on his ashes, I ask how would God feel about your heart?"
So basically, we learn that Mendenhall is a 9/11 truther and likely a devout Christian. The explosive reaction to these tweets was alarming to me for a few reasons.
1) People putting words in Mendenhall's mouth.
Let's use Will DePaoli over at The Insider on Pittsburgh Sports as an example. His headline read, "Controversial Comments? Rashard Mendenhall Speaks Favorably of Osama Bin Laden, Questions People Celebrating his Death". First off, at NO POINT does Mendenhall speak "favorably" of bin Laden. He simply says that he's not sure he believes the picture that the American government has painted of him as the mastermind of 9/11. DePaoli might as well have put a turban on Mendenhall's head, which is of course ridiculous. To imply that he is supporting terrorists is preposterous.
2) Mendenhall being painted as unpatriotic.
Again, completely ridiculous. Just because someone questions a majority position doesn't make them unpatriotic. In fact, quite the opposite. This country was built on questioning the status quo and searching for our own personal truths. First amendment, baby. Mendenhall is free to say and feel however he wants to. He is simply exercising his right as an American.
3) 9/11 "truthers" are hardly a fringe group.
This is a group of people that include Ralph Nader, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, a significant number of WTC/Pentagon survivors (most famously William Rodriguez, who was a WTC janitor who was in the basement and claimed there were explosions in the basement and lobby before any plane hit), former CIA vets, a group of nearly 1500 architects, and many more. These are not "bin Laden supporters", but rather, people that simply want answers to some of their questions. According to a Scripps-Howard poll, nearly 1/3 of all Americans believe the way that Mendenhall does, that either 9/11 was an inside job, or that at the very least, the government knew of the attacks, and did nothing to stop it. People who categorize this group as lunatics simply refuse to acknowledge their true aim; to figure out ALL of the answers behind their concerns.
I'm not saying that I agree with Mendenhall's beliefs. On a personal note, I'm very conflicted as to what I think happened on 9/11. When two groups often rail against each other from wildly conflicting viewpoints, the truth usually happens to be somewhere in the middle. That's how I feel about 9/11. The government explains a lot, and to assume a governmental conspiracy is to assume that the government is hyper-competent, which most of us would say it isn't. However, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists do ask legitimate questions.
Regardless, chastising Mendenhall and aligning him with terrorists is not only unethical, but extraordinarily ignorant. Does Joe Schmo on Twitter know any more than Rashard Mendenhall about 9/11? No. So why the hate for someone who simply has a difference of opinion? I don't use social media to denigrate people who like chocolate ice cream just because I like vanilla. Really, what's the difference?
As American citizens, we owe it to each other to respect different thoughts and beliefs. We should respect Mendenhall's and he should respect ours. And in the light of intellectualism and free speech, we shouldn't ridicule his thoughts, but rather use his thoughts to re-examine our own and to continually challenge each other. By acknowledging our different beliefs, we can reinforce what we know and what we don't, and continue to strive forward in pursuit of the unknown.