memory part 2: 9/11, mosques and emotion

This is about short term memory.

9/11 bucks the trend of the sometimes American trait of historical amnesia.

In general, we are a forward-looking people who don’t dwell on the past. But 9/11 remains an emotional moment of our generation (probably because it happened right here in front of us).

And, of course, I placed this write up immediately after reminding us of our long term memory deficit (and VJ Day).

Anyway.

This mosque and ground zero thing is getting little nuts.

First. The main question is should the mosque be permitted to be built where requested.

Yes. Of course it should.

That would be a freedom of religion constitutional thing. Heck. It’s an American thing. Back off that one and, well, the dam bursts on the whole democracy concept.

Second. The next question is should it be built at ground zero.

Well, no, it probably shouldn’t.

For all the reasons you may be able to come up with about solidarity and Muslims role in the fabric of America I can come up with a longer list of “why does it have to be there of all places” reasons.

Yes. You can.

No. you shouldn’t.

But.

This is where we get to see politicians at their worst. Their absolutely frickin’ worst.

Politicians are baiting our short term memory by making the building of the Islamic center near ground zero an issue.

It is a sorry exercise in political exploitation.

The fact is the Constitution will not permit the government treat one religion differently from another.

But. That aside.

More importantly is politicians are trying to confuse us by confusing terrorism with the entire Muslim religion.

USA TODAY: the Islamic center, described by proponents, including its imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, as a rebuke to radical Islam. Opponents — including prominent Republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and many 9/11 victims’ family members — call the planned mosque an insensitive intrusion on sacred ground.

President Obama last week said Muslims have a right to build a mosque near the site because of the nation’s freedom of religion but said he wouldn’t comment on the wisdom of doing so.

Gingrich accused Obama of “pandering to radical Islam. … Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

Obama? Right on all aspects.

Gingrich? His ignorance or lack of ability to use meaningful and appropriate analogies is astoundingly and stunningly shallow. Especially for one with enough power to dig deep into the American psyche.

If he wanted to compare radical fundamentalist Islam to the KKK? Sure. Go right frickin’ ahead.

But.

He is stirring up Americanism in the worst possible way.  (shame on his parents for naming him after a newt and shame on Gnewt for not understanding his responsibility to truth)

Ok. Here are some facts.

Over the past decade, dozens of mosques have been built without nasty battles. There are at least 1,500 in America now as compared with about 1,200 in 2000.

Even in the few communities where protesters have targeted Islam specifically, they’ve often been outnumbered by interfaith groups and individuals defending mosques and freedom of religion.

Much of this whole brouhaha is rooted in ignorance and fear.

If politicians (who are supposed to fairly represent the population and attempt to tell us the truth to guide us) would clearly separate al-Qaeda and radical Islamists from the peaceful millions who follow the Muslim faith we would not be guided by ignorance (or the seemingly ignorant).

Instead the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero has created a convenient rallying point for those who instead want to preach Islamic hatred. Small groups using whatever means possible (and the internet empowers splinter divisive groups in unimaginable ways) have leapt at the chance to exploit the opposition to the discussed NYC ground zero mosque.

“Ordinary Americans who don’t have a lot of information (about Islam) are bombarded with this,” says Ingrid Mattson president of the Islamic Society of North America. “It makes them anxious and uncertain.” Responsible people “need to provide information and outreach.”

I bolded that last sentence  and say “right on sister.”

Because it is reprehensible for people claiming national leadership to stir the pot with stunning ignorance.

Now.

Here is the tricky part.

The Mayor of New York City reminds us to remember that Muslims were among those murdered, and “that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values … if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”

He is correct.

And what he states is exactly what makes America so great.

But.

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that if the Muslim people who are building the ground zero mosque cared about improving Islam’s image, they would have taken their mosque elsewhere.

If they cared about cultural sensitivities, reciprocity or freedom of religion, then they wouldn’t be trying to build a mosque at ground zero.

I do feel (not strongly but there is certainly a twinge) that the idea to build this mosque at this location borders on being stupid and offensive.

Okay.

Maybe better said it is needlessly provocative or, at the very best, entirely needlessly thoughtless.

So.

All that said.

Shame on our politicians for not taking the high road.

We elect them to be better than this.

Shame on Americans for not understanding freedom of religion (regardless of how they may actually feel about the decision).

And shame on Islam leaders for putting everyone in this position with what I would consider either a very naïve point of view or an altogether thoughtless decision.

I will end this almost exactly with what I said about freedom of speech.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Freedom is a privilege.

Freedom carries with it responsibility.

I would step up and say “yes, you have the right to build the mosque.”

And then I would hope an American Muslim would step up right behind me and say “the responsible thing would be to build it elsewhere.”

THAT is America.

Written by Bruce