first of (probably) many
I have so many things piled up in my head, waiting for the time and energy to say them; I decided to start with this one.
There is still discussion going around concerning the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” (Which is neither, of course — but “downtown Islamic community center” doesn’t sound as scary, no matter how much the word “community” has been beaten up by those who will say anything to score points against their enemies.) There is still debate about its appropriateness. There is still outrage.
Folks, I am one of those outraged.
I am outraged that this is an issue. That people from thousands of miles away, who maybe have never set foot in New York and never will, have decided it’s their job to tell New Yorkers (of the Muslim persuasion or not) what they can and cannot build in their own city; that so many of them are willfully spreading lies on the subject so as to drum up more fear and hatred. I am outraged that our national response to this situation has skewed so far toward xenophobia, bigotry, and intolerance. I am outraged by this, and the later portions of this, and the attitude so ably skewered by this.
Not only do I want this community center, I want one built on Ground Zero. For real. It would have put me over the moon if I woke up one morning and found the internet blazing with the news that the 9/11 memorial was going to be a tasteful stone carved with the names of those who died, surrounded by an interfaith center dedicated to the peaceful co-existence of Christianity and Islam. Toss in Judaism, too, while you’re at it. With maybe a few wings for Hinduism and Buddhism and Wicca and all the rest. To get to the stone, you have to walk through galleries that explain the basic tenets of each religion, acknowledging the different interpretations that have been put on those tenets in different places and times. (And to get through the last door, you have to pass a quiz? No, no, we’re trying to be welcoming, here.) I want our memorial to that day to be a giant thumb in the eye of everybody on both sides who believes Christianity and Islam are and must be at war, everybody who wants a return of the Crusades. Show our true enemies that their best efforts will not achieve their goals; our commitment to the ideals of the United States is too strong to be broken by lies and fear.
Except it isn’t true. I’m not sure it ever has been; this country stumbles rather than strides toward a more perfect union, bettering itself by accident and the occasional spasm of purposeful change. And sometimes, like now, the spasms yank us in the opposite direction. It’s happened to one minority group after another: blacks, Latinos, Japanese, Chinese, Irish back in their day. All I can do is try to make sure I’m not out-shouted by the bigots, that I speak for tolerance whenever I can, to give the lie to the notion that “Americans” feel this way or that. No matter what the news may say, not all of us think the community center is a bad idea. My only problem with it is that I want more, and I’m afraid we won’t even get a little.