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.

0 Responses to “first of (probably) many”

  1. moonandserpent

    But they ARE building a temple to American religion on Ground Zero.

    A shopping center.

  2. mindstalk

    Can New Yorkers truly understand the trauma of 9/11?

    • Marie Brennan

      Fairness prompts me to acknowledge that one doesn’t have to have been in New York to be traumatized by 9/11. But I do suspect that if one were to graph outrage by geographical distance from Ground Zero (leaving out the ocean), there would be a little bump right in the NYC area, and a much larger one centered roughly on the Midwest.

  3. dsmoen

    Well, if you want to really support Wiccans (and Druids), some aspect of nature other than rock would be nice. 🙂 You’d also get some bonus Shinto possibilities if you did it well.

    But yeah, I like the idea of an interfaith (TRUE interfaith, not just inter-Christian or inter-Abrahamic, which is what most people mean by “interfaith”) center on Ground Zero.

    • Marie Brennan

      It would never happen, though. Christianity may have a little something to say about turning the other cheek, but ask most Christians to love their enemy as a neighbor and their heads will explode.

  4. stormsdotter

    I had a similar thought, and my Senior Thesis for my degree in Architecture was a museum dedicated to the religions of the world.

    I really wish I’d documented the darn thing, though your idea is a bit cooler.

    • Marie Brennan

      My idea is only cooler because the context is sharper. Which is not exactly a thing to celebrate.

      We could certainly use something — lots of somethings — like your museum.

      • alecaustin

        This is a horrible testament to… something, possibly me. But every time I drove past the freeway sign indicating the turnoff for the Museum of Tolerance in LA, I thought, “Man. That must be a small museum.”

  5. drydem

    a chance to listen to the ‘better angels of our nature’, as a wise man once said.

  6. d_c_m

    To your post I say


    I like your monument idea too. I like all of what you wrote.

    Oh and BTW, you are not alone in your rage.

Comments are closed.