Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Mosque Mess

Over the last week, I have been very busy with actual business and have not had the time to post anything here. Also, I have been fairly hesitant to weigh in on the mosque mess. Add to that my growing concern over the tenor of that debate and it is easy to see why the sidelines look so attractive on this issue.

However, the debate has now taken a turn that is more than just the normal flaming spitballs launched across the growing partisan divide. To really look at this fairly, you have to break it into 2 debates.

The first debate has to be the planned Islamic Center/Mosque near the World Trade Center site, or as it is known, the Ground Zero Mosque. Setting aside the obvious misnomer that is what it is known as and what I will call it. And let's all agree right off the top that there is a clear Constitutional and legal right to build that facility in that location. However, there is a principled, albeit emotional argument for moving it a little further from the actual site of the 9/11 attacks.

Eric Bolling at Fox best voices this. Please note that I am not a Fox fan at all. Or an MSNBC or CNN fan. From my perspective, most of the media (lame, main and otherwise) is so deeply engaged in the blindly partisan mud fest we call politics that they are useless as observers and reporters. Bolling however, while clearly voicing his conservative beliefs, is one of the few on either side that gives credence to an opposing perspective.

Anyway, Bolling explains it simply. He was in a cab on the way to WTC on 9/11. He saw the plane hit the tower. He lost a lot of friends and coworkers that day. I lost friends too, but I was in the comfort of my South Florida kitchen at the time. Eric was there. He worked there. Most folks have seen his safe deposit box. If you haven't seen it, Google it or whatever.

Bolling always acknowledges that the developer has every right the build it there. He is clear on that. However, for him, and many others, it is a strong emotional issue. It is that simple. To Bolling and a lot of folks, it is an affront, and an intentional one. I understand and respect that. I even agree to an extent. I personally think that the developer knows exactly what he is doing and refuses to even discuss a change of plans. For many like Eric Bolling, this is a personal insult.

That is something the developer should take into consideration, but does not have to. It is the kind of thing that does more for community outreach than a hundred open houses and bake sales. That is all folks like Eric want. Respect and some consideration of their emotions about the 9/11 attacks.

However, many others are not so pure of intention. Take Newt Gingrich, who most famously said that it is like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I guess to those who revel in the endless Nazi analogies, this makes sense. Unfortunately, it does not.

First, we would allow the Nazi sign next to museum. It is called freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It would be seriously distasteful, but it would be protected speech. Second, can all of you lay off the Nazi analogies for at least a month? It tends to minimize the true and deep evil that Hitler perpetrated. Also, its sounds stupid. Democrats did it to Bush, Republicans are doing it to Obama. Even though it is protected speech, it is distasteful and somewhat stupid speech.

And, worse than the Nazi analogists are the flat out haters. Those who dislike all Moslems and view all of them as the same as radical Islam. They are not. Most Moslems are just like everyone else. They just want to have a nice day. Of course those who attacked us did so in the name of radical Islam, but they are a small percentage. Painting all of Islam with that brush is wrong.

And that is what is happening now. Opposition to mosques in Tennessee, California and Wisconsin is significant and ugly. Those areas do not have the emotional argument that Eric Bolling and his peers do. Those that oppose those mosques do so out of either misplaced anger or straight out hate. Listen to the arguments.

Accusations that those mosques will allow strict Sharia law to be practiced. Well, I doubt very heavily that there will be any stonings in Murfreesboro, Tennessee or Temecula, California. This is the kind of stuff the opponents of the mosques outside New York are pushing. They use phrases like, "...taking over the US from the inside."

That last phrase should sound familiar. It was applied to Irish immigrants, Italians, Jews and recently, Hispanics. It is standard fare for the xenophobes. No matter who it is, they are always somehow plotting to take over the US from the inside. Oddly, it never seems to happen.

So there are really two debates here. One is a principled, albeit emotional argument from New Yorkers who still feel the pain and anguish from 9/11. As a compassionate and understanding American, I understand and respect their feelings. I support their effort to open a dialog to try to move the Islamic Center. It is a fair and understandable request. As a side note, there are those who suggest that it is time for Bolling and his peers to "get over it." How dare they. Whether or not I share the emotions Bolling has, we should respect them. Not respecting Bolling or anyone else's feelings is no better than those who oppose all mosques.

The other debate is not so principled. It is based on hate and misinformation and forwarded by those who simply wish to keep Moslems out of our society. To those people I say shut up. Keep your petty hate and bile to yourselves and accept that this is America and freedom is an absolute. To those in California, Tennessee and Wisconsin who are mounting hate based campaigns against peaceful good citizens, I say stop. You damage this nation with your every word and deed. Hate our enemy. Hate those who killed 3,000 on 9/11. But do not hate all who are Moslem. Most are good folks and good neighbors.

By the way, as much as I dislike the haters like Gingrich and Bo Dietl, and would love for them to just shut up, I also recognize that our amazing Constitution protects even stupid hateful speech like Dietl's inaccurate hysterics about Sharia law and Gingrich's snarling Nazi analogies. So I defend their right to free speech as much as anyone else's.

Simply put, we can have a debate about the Ground Zero location for the mosque with no hate for all Moslems (as Mr. Bolling has done) or we can descend into the kind of hate we are supposed to be better than as Americans.

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