It is far easier to condemn a group for the faults of a few, than to take a long, cold, hard look at the larger picture. Stereotypes are often born of those who make themselves prominent from a group, even though they are not representative of the whole. This leads to the whole body of individuals being dragged down into the mire of iniquity, where they do not belong. It is better to single out those bad apples for the treatment they deserve, rather than extend our disgust and displeasure to everyone.
Islamic radicals have done an excellent job poisoning American opinion against Muslims. Far from pointing out America's "war on Muslims," they have been able to create it from whole cloth, by showing the rest of the world how we react to their religion, with threats of burning the Qur'an, or marches opposing the building of mosques (or community centers), or even abandoning one of the fundamental precepts of our founding, the freedom to worship, by claiming Islam is "not a real religion."
Of course, what can be said for Islam can be said for Christianity. The tiny church group that created the furor over the potential burning of the Islamic holy book is a tiny fraction of all Christianity. It is certainly -- we would hope -- not a representative cross-section of the many and varied Christian sects, or even the Roman Catholic religion.
And of the Roman Catholic religion, we could say the same, that though the idea of priests preying on innocent children is repugnant and reprehensible, those priests certainly do not represent a sizable fraction of all the priesthood. The Roman Catholic Church, for its many faults, still tries to do good in the world, though its messages has become less secular and more deterministic of late. The church's refusal to allow women into the higher echelons of the faith has certainly led to these issues being more pervasive than they should be.
When it comes to women, we must also learn to not look at the likes of Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann as the new wave of women in politics. They are but a small slice of the much larger pie of women making strides in the political arena. While they may seem to be weakening women's positions in the world, I think they are in fact creating dialog that was for too long missing in America. It almost seems as if the feminist movement has lost steam, with younger women coming to the conclusion that with so many freedoms, there was not much left to fight for, even though equality on paper does not translate into equality in society.
When we speak of equality in society, we must touch on that portion of Americans who are virulently homophobic, working diligently to ensure that gay people do not end up being regarded as equal to themselves, borrowing from the era of Jon Crow segregation in all but the signs on water fountains. The majority of those who may not appreciate homosexuality as a fact of life are probably not of the type to look at them as sub-human or less than normal; they merely are scared that somehow giving gays the same rights as everyone else will dilute their way of life, when nothing could be further from the truth, given how watered down the "sacrament" of marriage is in our modern age.
The list goes on. In every category, in every group or organization or society, there are those who stretch the limits, who go beyond what is normal, what is fair, and what is decent, to proselytize and pound their fists, enraged by the rest of us who choose not to buy into their paranoia, fear, and ignorance. We can never truly be rid of them, for they are a natural product of our development. Just as there are those who will find it possible to transcend the moment, to become much more than simply a product of their gender, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation, there will be those who retain a death grip on the walls they have created, and the boxes they have labeled, trying to create order in their rapidly deteriorating universe. They will wail and rail against change, commit themselves to do battle with it at every turn, to keep their "precious" world alive, no matter the cost to others. Because it is never truly for the greater good that they do this; it is merely to fill the empty void that would otherwise be their life, to give them some purpose and meaning, even as they see humanity passing them by.