Joe Henderson Columns
Henderson: Caton stoking prejudice and fears
TAMPA - Editor's note: You're used to seeing columnist Joe Henderson's opinons on sports. Starting today, his columns will focus on news. It's easy to dismiss David Caton as a gasbag, divider, zealot or even a hatemonger. I'll try not to do that, although it is curious that he always seems to be against something. That just makes him perfect for these times. Caton's philosophy seems basic enough. It's OK to believe whatever you want, as long as it's what he and those who follow him think you should believe. America is great, as long as it's their version of America. And so it goes. He has a large following of true believers, though, and for every person who believes Caton is a crank, there is another who takes him seriously. The home improvement giant Lowe's certainly did, pulling advertisements from the TV show "All-American Muslim" under pressure from Caton's Tampa-based organization.According to the website for Caton's Florida Family Association, the show is "clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and sharia law." Not "all" Muslims, of course. Just "many" Muslims. I'm sure that statement was well-researched. David Caton says he is a religious man, and it's not my purpose to doubt that in any way. I do have a few questions, though. I have read the Bible cover to cover, more than once. The Scriptures are pretty clear that Jesus hung out with undesirables of the day. Matthew was a tax collector, and those guys were despised as crooks and predators of the weak. Judas was a betrayer. Thomas had doubts. Peter ran and hid when the heat came down. Jesus was a revolutionary who turned over tables in the temple. He challenged the pious and broke the rules by healing people on the Sabbath. He shamed a mob of stone throwers to walk away from a prostitute they were about to kill. And he was inclusive, inviting everyone to the table. It cost him dearly. So given that Caton worships the man and his teachings, how can he make these judgments about the intentions of "many" when he has only supposition and innuendo to go on? That kind of absolutism is far too typical these days. I tried to ask him about that, but he was in a hurry to do a Skype interview and a whole bunch of other stuff and must have forgotten about his promise to get back with me. If he wants to campaign against nude bars, porn and I-75 billboards he says show too much skin, hey, it's a free country. Agree with him, don't agree, whatever. He has as much right to rail against these things as opponents have to rail against him. We must agree, the man does give a good sound bite. This latest fight raises the stakes, though. This isn't a campaign against stuff he believes is leading us down a path to decay and ruin, it's a wide net cast over a whole group of people. It preys on stereotypes and fear, and it's dangerous. It's straight out of McCarthy's 1950s playbook, and no good can come of it. He has made national news with this, and a not-insignificant number of people are climbing on board. And because of what? Because of a television show on TLC. By howling at the moon, Caton brought more attention to the show than it ever would have received, but that's beside the point. His crusade alerted Us about Them and how They are out to destroy The American Way Of Life! When I was a kid in Ohio back in the 1960s, I remember a man — a good man — standing in the Church of God on Sunday morning to tell everyone in the pews of a problem in our little town. It seems the white son of the local junior high school principal was dating a black girl. I remember the man saying we had to take a stand because this just wasn't right. You see, it was about fear and stereotypes then, too. Maybe that never changes. It's just a different group of people David Caton says we are supposed to be afraid of, and that's scary.