Monday, August 16, 2010

A Call to Common Sense

Now that Obama has weighed in on the mosque at Ground Zero, it seems to me that we all get to.

The gist of a lot of the left leaning blogs and pundits seems to be that people against the mosque are so full of fear and hate that we are willing to void our own Bill of Rights to stop it.

I think it is, well, hateful to acuse all people who are against the Ground Zero mosque of being simply full of hate. Isn’t that just repeating the same cycle of oversimplifying and demonizing which you are decrying?

It is far too dark a picture of America to contend that the 67% of people against the mosque are just consumed in hate and fear. There is so much more going on here. Namely, pain.

My mother used to say, “If you know someone has a sore toe, you should go out of your way not to step on it.” 9/11 is still much more than a sore toe. It is still a horror.

I wish I believed that the mosque would be an interfaith community center to promote love and understanding. The truth is, the principle driver behind the mosque has refused to condemn Hamas. He seemed in one statement to excuse the attacks of 9/11 as something America had earned by her foreign policy. A decade or so ago, a bunch of Muslims told us that they just wanted to learn how to fly airliners, so we taught them how. One of the hardest blows of the 9/11 tragedy was that they used our own open society against us. Dare we trust them again to use our own 1st amendment against us? Excuse me for being leery.

In an article in The Atlantic kind of pathetically called, "What Obama Meant to Say About the Mosque" (who says the elite media don't see themselves as defenders of Obama?), this liberal writer notes in an idealistic frenzy, "What could be a more powerful counter-argument to the idea that the West is warring with Islam than the American president endorsing the construction of a mosque a few blocks away from (our) sacred site?"

This writer is making the mistake of making the Islamic world in his own image: "What could be a more powerful counter-argument to the idea that the West is warring with Islam than the American president endorsing the construction of a mosque a few blocks away from a sacred site?....See, Islamic fundamentalists aren't engaging in an argument. They are engaging in jihad. Hearing Mayor Bloomberg say that the mosque would make Muslims around the world stop fearing us reminded me of Neville Chamberlain waiving an agreement from Hitler and proclaiming that, "We will have peace in our time!"

I was terribly impressed four years ago to visit the Holy Land. Beside nearly every Christian and Jewish holy site, the Muslims have built a mosque. These mosques scream the call to prayer five times a day and make quiet meditation and celebration of the mysteries of our faith nearly impossible. There are seven in the Old City of Jerusalem alone. They go off in syncopated fashion during the day and almost made me crazy. A member of the Knesset noted to me that the mosques are a provocation, and in the minds of the Islamic faithful, they are a sign of Islam’s domination over its enemies. Part of me thinks that a mosque at 9/11 would be a way of giving succor to the millions of Muslims who hate us as the great Satan and cheered the Towers going down.

I am less interested in whether Muslims have a right to build a mosque at 9/11. (And that they might is not as cut and dry as the appeal to 1st Amendment freedoms would have it seem. There is loads of legal precedent for individual property rights being ceded to the common good. You can’t build a bar on your property if there is a school nearby. My grandfather lost our family farm so Waterville, ME could build an airport. (They never actually did.) The Supreme Court ruling in Kelo a few years back said that property rights could be voided if a town could make more taxes by seizing the land and dedicating it to another use…) But whether there is a legal right to build it, this seems to me to not be the moment. The terrible grief and horror is still too fresh. America has not even rebuilt on the 9/11 site yet. The Freedom Tower is still on the drawing board. The Russian Orthodox Church that was destroyed at Ground Zero is still waiting to be rebuilt. It seems to me inappropriate that a mosque would come first.

It is too easy and even unkind to mistake the pain of our people for hate. The memory of those innocent people falling to the ground is still too raw.

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