As you know by now, I was completely wrong.
Since then, I've got to admit that I haven't been entirely sure why I was so worked up about it. I don't have any personal stake in it...I'm pretty sure I could count my Muslim friends on one hand and have fingers left over. The fact is, that, aside from not believing that Islam exists solely to subjugate the rest of the world, I rarely think much about them at all. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Catholics or Baptists or Seventh Day Adventists or Hindus or Rastafarians either. They're just not terribly relevant to my daily life. Nor can I think of the last time I counted houses of worship in a specific area and thought that one group might be winning because they had more square footage in the neighborhood.
Nonetheless, every day I seem to read something new -- to watch the rhetoric ratchet up another notch and I grow more depressed over it. The truth is, I think the debate, if you want to call it anything so genteel, has become scary. Every time I've considered chiming in again, events have overtaken me...meaning some other jackass has started spouting nonsense and gotten me too worked up to attempt coherence.
I'll try to keep from nattering on for too long, but I wouldn't feel right if I didn't say anything at all.
For starters, I know a number of people, myself included, have made the point that the proposed Cultural Center is hardly at Ground Zero...it's a couple of blocks away. I won't go into how geometry and sightlines work, but here's a clue. If you enlarge this handy little screenshot I took from GoogleEarth, you'll notice that, in order to see the mosque over that 17 story building in the way, you'll need to get up to a pretty high floor in the new World Trade Center...if they ever finish building it. If that's supposed to be taken as some triumphal monument to our attackers, I'm unclear on the concept.
More importantly, a lot of people have objected to the fact that suddenly, politicians from all over the country are expressing opinions. I remember, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, how much it meant to New Yorkers to have the support of the rest of the country. There was a sense of unity in the country -- we weren't in this alone. There was moral and material support from all over the country. So, I guess I'd feel like something of a hypocrite if I said only New Yorkers should be allowed an opinion now. But it's not the fact of these opinions that bothers me...it's the fact that they're not genuine. I don't doubt that some of the rhetoric is heartfelt (if completely wrong), but most of it is cheap Political Theater...plain and simple. Let's look at some of it.
Newt Gingrich finds no contradiction in stating his staunch support for Freedom of Religion while proposing what amounts to a "Mosque-Free Zone" in some ill-defined radius around Ground Zero. He says he wouldn't have any objections to a new Mosque near Central Park or up near Columbia University. Thanks Newt. He also points out that you wouldn't be free to build a Synagogue or Church in Mecca. Really? Really Newt? I'm capable of swallowing a certain amount of bile to acknowledge that the U.S. is better off having a friendly relationship with Saudi Arabia, but are we supposed to emulate them now? Are you really taking your fucking lead from what the Saudis think is right and proper? Unless I was lied to about everything, I was taught that America was supposed to be the example the rest of the world aspired to. Thanks for clearing that up.
Rick Lazio -- at least he's a homegrown asshole -- is running for Governor on the GOP ticket. He thinks we should investigate the Mosque's finances before allowing them to proceed. Will we be doing that for every church that wants to build from now on? Is there a new set of rules nobody told me about. Feh! (Since I first wrote this paragraph, Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation of who is funding the anti-Mosque clique. Nancy's statement caused Peter King (R-NY) to find the first thing in this sad affair that he calls "reprehensible". He should listen to some of the things his constituents have been saying if he really wants to know what reprehensible sounds like.)
Sarah Palin Tweeted, “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts.” I actually don't have all that much to say about Sarah, except that her qualification about "Peace-seeking Muslims" reminds me of a time when people talked about "innocent AIDS victim"...because even devout Christians could discern between poor babies who got AIDS from transfusions and evil faggots who deserved what they got. She seems to be saying, "There must be some Muslims who don't want to kill us all...I've heard about 'em". STFU Sarah.
Rick Scott, who's running for Governor of Florida, ferChrissakes, released a commercial called "Obama's Mosque". I'd say I was at a loss to figure out what any of this has to do with running the State of Florida, but I guess the opportunity to run against Obama and to paint him with a Muslim brush again was too much to resist. (Scott apparently feels the need to comment on events in NY, but I can't find any comment of his regarding the May firebombing of a Mosque in Jacksonville, Fl. I, for one, want to know if he's for it or against it!)
The thing is, I don't believe any of the politicians toeing the anti-mosque line have any heartfelt opinion on the issue one way or the other. You can bet your ass they're just jumping on a bandwagon of political expedience and appealing to the lowest common denominator. It's cynical and it's short sighted -- but I'll get back to that.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement calling on the developers to place their mosque somewhere else "out of sensitivity". Since then, he's issued a statement attempting to clarify the League's position. Sorry Abe, I'm not buying it. I've questioned some of the ADL's positions before as over-reactions or paranoia, but I've never doubted the moral clarity behind those positions. I don't care how many statements or acts you can point to in the past, you're still wrong on this issue. Freedom of Religion doesn't come in shades or degrees -- it's either absolute or it doesn't exist at all. If you want to regain your moral high ground, you'll reverse your position. (Since writing this paragraph, Gov. Paterson (NY) offered to help find an alternate site - on State property? -- and was rebuffed. Archbishop Timothy Dolan also wants to see if he can mediate finding an alternate location. They both may be well meaning, but they're wrong.)