The proposal to build a mosque in Manhattan near the site of the Twin Towers has ignited the usual futile debate that marks all political discussion in America. I don’t know which set of arguments is more degrading, the opponents’ cry of insensitivity or the defenders’ claim of religious freedom.
Let us begin with the more obvious exercise in stupidity, the notion that the First Amendment to the Constitution of 1787 grants a blanket freedom of religion to be enforced by the Federal government. Anyone who got through second grade by now is aware that it is not the First Amendment that is in play but the 14th, which was passed illegally for the purpose of giving civil rights (primarily involving contracts and wills) to former slaves. Only the tortured metaphysics and imbecility of federal judges–no exceptions alive today that I know of-could twist this into anything relevant to the current case. The purpose of the First Amendment was to prevent power-crazed national politicians from imposing their religious views on the rest of us in the states.
So now a power-crazed Muslim-loving president is doing just that. Pew Opinion Research now reports the really surprising news that growing numbers of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim, while the number of Democrats who do not regard him as a Christian is on the rise. I’d like to meet one of those Americans not in an institution who still thinks there is a Christian president in the White House.
We know the context in which the First Amendment was written. Many states had established churches and nearly all had religious tests for voting or holding office. Some of the tests require some vague statement of belief in a god, while others are more specific and Christian. The tiny minority of Jews was, for the most part left alone, but no one in his right mind would have thought they had a right to practice their religion. Muslims and Hindus were not imaginable.
Islam was created as a Satanic parody of Christianity and Judaism, and it has been waging war on those two religions from its earliest days. It is a sign of how genuinely stupid–and evil–Americans are that they tolerate Muslims in their midst and allow them to become citizens. One would have thought, however, that New York Jews would have had enough clout to intimidate the political class into preventing the construction of this mosque, but the times are changing, and if we are to be liberated from the domination of the Jewish lobby, it is because we are being sold out to the Muslim, neopagan, and atheist anti-Christians. But, as Jay and the Americans used to sing, “Only in America, land of opportunity, yay-ay-ay-ay..” (Someone should ask me what the song was supposed to be about before the lyric was changed.)
So it is only reasonable for the people of Rockford to be just a little upset about the construction of a mosque here, but the response to the story in our local Red Star is mostly positive. The only Rockfordians brave enough to express a negative opinion are combat veterans. There is an unfortunate tendency, among people who understand that Christians have been victims of Islamic terrorism for 13 centuries, to demonize all Muslims and support our foolish and wasteful frolics in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be enough to keep them out of Rockford without nuking them in their own countries.
But New York? New York has not been an American city since before World War I. No one can be happy that some 2,600 people were murdered by Saudi terrorists, but how significant, really, is their death to the rest of us who are lucky enough not to live in New York? The horror belongs to TVland America, not to whatever is left of the real country. We are told, over and over, by the teachers,politicians, and pundits who know what is best for us, that we live in a global community in which we care as much about starving Somalis as for a sick widow next door. Fine. Then why care more about New Yorkers than the victims of murder, terrorism, and genocide all over the world. Why care more about New Yorkers than, say, Afghan, Iraqi, and Palestinian civilians, or the Iranian civilians whose blood we are lusting after.
It is different for New Yorkers, of course, and for people with close relatives in Manhattan. So far as I am aware, I knew only one person working in the Twin Towers that day and she was smart enough to panic when the first plane hit and ran down dozens and dozens of flights of stairs, though her colleagues thought she was freaking out. They did not have long to reflect on their mistake. Even I, listening to NPR, knew what was happening and managed to see the second plane on TV. We Americans are so incredibly naive, we refuse even to this day to understand what happened then and what is continuing to happen. This is more than ignorance: It is a self-administered lobotomy.
Weeping and wailing about the victims in a faraway city that ordinary Americans mostly dislike and resent is a degrading experience. If New Yorkers wish to live there–and the rich do have reasons to be there–let them, but leave the rest of us out of their new Holocaust. A people that sees nothing wrong in one million plus aborted babies per year cannot justify sentimentality over a mere 3000, and a government that has killed far more Muslim civilians and aided and abetted the Israeli killings of civilians–while consistently lauding Islam as a religion of peace–is in no position to complain about terrorism.
The debate, as one of our writers has said below in a comment, really comes down this: on one side is a coalition of Muslims and leftists who hate Christians and libertarians who hate Israel first and America second, and, on the other, neoconservatives who have no use for Christians–indeed, prefer Muslims except when they are inconvenient for Israel–and even they are willing to tolerate mosques, just not anywhere near the sacred soil of Ground Zero.
The complete bankruptcy–political, moral, and spiritual–of the so-called American Right has been on display during this episode. The depths were plumbed, inevitably, by Ms Palin, who compared the construction of the mosque with “building a Serbian Orthodox church at Srebrenica killing fields where Muslims were slaughtered.” Never mind she knows nothing about the Balkans or the facts of the Srebrenica case–both sides were slaughtering each other in a bloody civil war. What really leaps out is her vulgar sentimentalism and, even more, the ease with which she compares a Christian church with a mosque. For Palin and the rest of the leaders of the GOP, there is simply no evidence. For the Palin episode, see Srdja Trifkovic’s excellent piece on the Lord Byron Foundation website.
If New York were a Christian city or if the United States were a Christian country committed to defending its people and their religion, then the construction of a mosque anywhere in the United States including Manhattan would be an outrage. As things are, we have no reason to complain.