I don't usually write about politics. It's important, but something I want no part of - kind of like a raw sewage treatment facility. But frankly, I haven't been this upset in a long time. And it's due to the logic-hating, herd-mentality rhetoric that some have been flinging in opposition to the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." For the uninitiated, there are plans to construct an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. And, of course, lower Manhattan is where the World Trade Center stood before terrorists destroyed it, thereby murdering 3,000 Americans. I was working in New York City at the time. As was my father. As was my pregnant wife. I remember the day well. And the days that followed. I think most of all, I remember standing on the Staten Island Ferry, coming home with 200 other silent, reverent New Yorkers of every age, race, and religion, as we watched our city still smoldering a full week later. And it is with this backdrop that I can say to every politician spouting off and opposing the construction of this Islamic community center: "Shut up. Go away. You hate America."
I'm talking about people like professional political tumor, Newt Gingrich, and future worst President ever, Sarah Palin, who have both slammed supporters of the Islamic community center with rhetoric so flawed, I'm afraid even linking to it might impair your computer's higher functioning circuits. But it's not just them. Due to the wave of misinformation being spread, apparently 68% of Americans also oppose the mosque.
How did this happen? Well, basically a complacent or a complicit media helped perpetuate three ideas that are either outright lies or intellectually dishonest arguments designed to bring out the very worst in all of us. And as you continue to hear them--and you will--take out this column which you will have already printed and laminated, and recite thusly:
1. It's Not at Ground Zero
The proposed structure is not on the hallowed ground of the former World Trade Center. It's at an abandoned and private building blocks away that used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. That means that if every one of the "g's" that Sarah Palin drops when she's talkin' folksy were 10 by10 feet large, you could still stack over 120 of them from Ground Zero to this community center. Easy.
That sort of makes all the difference, doesn't it? I know, when I first heard they were building a mosque at Ground Zero, I literally said, "What the fuck." Like out loud and everything. I didn't even pull a "WTF" despite years of writing for the Internet. That's because for the last nine years, we New Yorkers have listened to countless proposals and plans and ideas of how to best rebuild the area while honoring the memories of those who died. And suddenly it seemed we were being told, "Yep, it's all decided. Mosque. We want a mosque here. Just feels right."
So yeah, of course, no one was on board. That just made no sense. What happened to that proposed waterfall and wall of names? Nothing happened. Because no one was ever building a mosque on that site. It's just a lie that was told to you by people who wanted you to be afraid, upset, and hurt. People who wanted to manipulate your tender emotions to inspire contempt for the government. It's about as intellectually dishonest as manipulating debate footage to make it appear that "Drill, baby, drill" is Sarah Palin's stance on partial birth abortions. It's just wrong.
And to those who say that any location in lower Manhattan is too close for a Muslim structure, let me remind you that right now, in the shadow of what would be the former World Trade Center, there's a Halal Meat Hot Truck with a multi-denominational line that wraps around my building every day at lunch time. And I'm positive that's owned by a Muslim. And I've even suffered at his hands. (Spoiler alert: avoid the goat rhoti). Should he move a few more blocks away too? Of course, not. That would just be silly, right? Is it different? Why? Because mosques are religious and the 911 terrorists perverted Islam into something violent and hateful? Guess what? Those knights did the same thing to Christianity for the 300 years of the Crusades, and no one's saying that churches shouldn't be built anywhere in â€¦ Europe.
2. It's Not Strictly A Mosque
A mosque by definition is a purely religious structure. This is a large proposed community center, open to the public and set to house, among other things, a basketball court. Yes there will be a prayer space inside it as well, but you don't call St. Mary's Hospital a church because it happens to have a chapel inside it, do you? Well, maybe you do. You read about politics on the Internet from a guy who claims not to write about politics, so maybe you're functionally illiterate. But the point is, you shouldn't.
But "Islamic Community Center open to the public" doesn't have the same ability to scare people the way "mosque" does. I mean, you hear "mosque" you think mosquito, you think STING! You hear "mosque" you think "mask," you think DECEPTION! You hear "community center" you think "OK. One more place I'll never go." So, yeah, clearly the decision was made by those who hate you to call this the "Ground Zero Mosque" even though it's not at Ground Zero and not technically a mosque. Why are we still discussing this? Why haven't you already asked Sarah Palin if she's the devil on her Twitter account? Oh, that's right. Because the devil is supposed to be good at lying.
3. You Can't Simultaneously Acknowledge A Right And Insist That Your Government Suppress It
But the real reason I'm writing is not just because of people like Sarah Palin, but because of shameful, spineless panderers like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here's a statement from each of them designed to give the appearance of being tolerant while adhering to good old-fashioned common sense values:
From Sarah Palin's Twitter Feed:
And from Harry Reid's spokesperson:
Let me make something clear. In order to make these statements you must hate two things: logic and America. There is NO way to say that an individual has a protected right to do something and simultaneously criticize your government for not suppressing the execution of that right. There is no way for President Obama or any other president to put a stumbling block in the way of the free exercise of religion without violating the sanctity of that freedom. Should I say it more simply? OK.
You can't legally stop people from obeying the law.
The Burlington Coat factory is private property. Those who want to build on it are private citizens. They are violating no law in wanting to build a community center. Under what authority do you propose we stop them? There is no "unless you're a Muslim within X yards of a national tragedy exception" to the free exercise of religion. Do the Gingrichs and Palins and Reids want to start a precedent where you can compel people not to exercise the freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution provided enough people don't like you?
And what are we saying to Muslims? That if they were good Americans they would willingly give up their rights? I can't think of anything less American than that? This is America. We do what we want. And all you have to do to have that right is be a citizen here. And if you're a traitor, well then we will prosecute you for treason and penalize you for taking up arms against the greatest country in the world, but we will NOT start curtailing your freedoms based on mere speculation fueled by lies about what you're building and where you're building it.
In the days following 911 it was very popular to say that we couldn't do anything differently in America or "the terrorists would win." We can't stop driving gas guzzling cars. We can't stop supporting dictators in other parts of the world for financial or political gain. We can't vote for a Democrat. Most of that was rhetoric. Some of it was probably true. But one thing is definitely true: if we ask our leaders to start dishonoring the freedoms that make this country great, the terrorists surely will have won. And I don't want to see that. Because unlike those with power and influence who would lie to you, I love America.
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