Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Only Authorized Religions Beyond This Point

Why has the "Ground Zero Mosque" been near the center of the national political discussion for more than two months? It is neither at ground zero (it's two-and-a-half blocks away) nor a mosque (it's more like a Muslim YMCA). Those two links give pretty good rundowns of what's actually going on. And, from what I can tell, lefty blogs have done a pretty good job responding on the issue. But, as is usually the case with these manufactured controversies, the facts and the rebuttal are always slower to come out and more boring to read than the shocking headlines shrewdly coined by right-wing activists.

The right wing and the Republican establishment have done with this story what they have done with thousands of stories before it. Their appeal is to conservative-minded, generally Christian, generally white Americans. A threat is depicted as coming from some group that is either non-Christian, non-white or, in the worst-case scenario, neither Christian nor white. What is being threatened exactly? Follow their explanations and reasoning down the rabbit hole and you'll pass through a fairy-tale version of America as they imagine it was in the 1950s or earlier. Follow a little further, and I think what you finally arrive at, what they feel is being threatened, is white protestant privilege. The funny thing is, they're right. They--the right-wing, the GOP establishment, and the folks they appeal to--long for an America that is less pluralistic and less democratic, like it used to be in those "good old days" that they're kinda vague about. They either want you to be just like them, or they want to be able to look down on you. But they're fighting against the current of American history and losing. And that's part of why they're so angry and confused.

There is no good reason why the government should step in and stop the construction of the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center. Does anyone on the right seriously think there is? Or is this entirely a ploy to peg Democrats to a feared brown-skinned 'other' while wrapping the GOP in the flag? For how many blocks from Ground Zero should certain religions be prohibited? If we're going to call the whole area, for blocks around, "hallowed ground," do we demolish the strip clubs, sex shops, bars, liquor stores, banks, and pizza shops? Or how about the mosque that's already in the area, or the Hare Krishna facility, or the Buddhist center? Who gets to be the one to decide what is and is not allowed inside the hallowed-ground zone? Are there any other First Amendment protections we should suspend inside the zone, or should we just suspend freedom of religion, or just Islam?

This whole issue is utter nonsense, and the Right should pay a heavy political price for it. The president should do more than say he supports Muslims' freedom of religion; he should blast Republicans for such cynical and dishonest tactics. Progressive groups should do the same, and they are to some extent. The problem is that the rebuttal and retort need to have the same punch that "Mosque To Be Built At Ground Zero" does. If you can think of that bumper sticker-type comeback, let me know.

11 comments:

Redhead! said...

"Freedom of Religion Found Dead at Ground Zero"

Becky said...

Well said. I do think this whole thing is such a non-issue--the right wingers keeping this issue alive should be embarrassed.

As for bumper stickers, how about something like, "Republicans prefer sex shops to faith-based community center"?

Amy said...

Dude, yes. I have been hoping you'd post on this topic!!! This kind of stuff is crazy-making.

Chris said...

I didn't know too much about this except for what I heard in the white noise of TV/radio. I also saw Barack make a statement but didn't pay much attention. And until now I did think it was literally a mosque at ground zero. And I really did have the fleeting thought that yeah that seems wrong. Thanks for pointing out this media hoax.

Jimmy said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib9rofXQl6w

Dave said...

Hi Jimmy, I actually watched the video you link to, "Three Things About Islam." I'm wondering what your point is and how you think the video is relevant to this discussion. The video's conclusion seems to be that Islam is an inherently violent religion and is a threat to the rest of the world. I don't really care to wade into the particulars of what certain Muslims do and do not believe.

Do you see, somewhere in all this, a reason why the government should prohibit a Muslim group from constructing a building in Manhattan? I don't.

The True Football said...

I understand why certain folks have trepidation about the community center. It is still a sensitive issue for many who lost loved ones in the disaster. However, it is not up to the federal government to decree on religious issues. Separation of Church and State anyone?

It seems to me that folks who oppose the construction are not willing to concede that Muslims also lost their lives in 9/11. To regard all Muslims as ideally linked to Islamic terrorists would crossing the same theological bridge as linking the ideals of all Christians with the KKK, who righteously claim the faith.

Perhaps there could be a more culturally sensitive spot for the community center, but so far we haven't heard any alternatives from the opposition to it. Perhaps they would suggest Newark...

What Pale Blue Dot? said...

Does it surprise you that religious discrimination is an American value?

Camp Papa said...

"GOP wants one more 9/11 victim:
Religious Freedom"

Jenni said...

I have to agree with Becky on this. I keep thinking, "Why are we still talking about this? Why were were EVER talking about this?" I hate, hate, hate when people use 9-11 as a mask for bigotry.

Dave said...

Some good bumper sticker-type messages. And I agree, Jenni, people too often package stupid arguments or just plain bigotry in a wrapping of 9/11.