It’s hard to believe that a national campaign led by lunatics has taken off with such momentum, but then again, it looks like we’re still living in Bizarro World, where the values we upheld before 9/11 have been hideously inverted. So what else can we expect?
The cable news channels have been consumed with the “Ground Zero mosque” 24/7, to the virtual exclusion of all else: it’s an “issue” made for them, and they’re eating it up. I’m soooo glad we don’t have anything else to worry about: that the economy is just rolling merrily along, people are not losing their homes, and everything is just hunky-dory in the good ol’ US of A, land of peace and plenty. Why else would our “leaders” in both parties be commenting on what, in a rational society, would not even come up for discussion?
Too bad we aren’t living a rational society, or even anything close. That’s the first thought that crossed my mind as I sat down, today, to once again examine this manufactured controversy. Which led logically and naturally to this second thought: manufactured by whom, and for what purpose?
Is it me, or does anyone else find it passing strange that – at a time when conservatives are on the ascendant, with this administration’s increasingly unpopular economic program under attack from all sides – that the American right-wing is taking up yet another nasty-minded “cultural” issue? Forget the bank bailouts, don’t worry about the nationalization of large swathes of the American economy (banking, healthcare, housing), and try to forget that China owns us – what’s really really wrong with America is that the New York City government is allowing a mosque to be built within a four-block radius of where the World Trade Center once stood.
Never mind that it isn’t a mosque, and that we’re talking about four New York City blocks, which, where I come from, is the equivalent of the other side of town. Also please ignore the fact that there are already mosques in the vicinity – go here for the Google map – and not only that, but what about all those Muslims living and working in the general vicinity? Isn’t their mere presence a slap in the face? What about Alfanoose, the excellent Arabic restaurant a few blocks away, where customers regularly consume such pro-terrorist items as lamb shawarma? Not to mention falafels!
And it isn’t just those rag-heads we need to cleanse from the streets of Lower Manhattan. Right in the same neighborhood is the headquarters of the National Lawyers Guild, one of whose members, Lynn Stewart, the 70-year-old attorney for accused terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman, was jailed for ten years for “materially supporting terrorism.” White radicals are just as bad as the terrorists they defend, and they have to go, too.
And what about the Mayor of New York City, Mr. Bloomberg: should he be allowed to set foot anywhere near the Sacred Zone? After all, he’s defending Cordoba House: indeed, he’s the only politician I know of, other than – to some degree – the President, who is standing up for the terrorists – uh, I mean the builders of the mosque – and therefore he, too, should be banished from that holy precinct. And why stop with Lower Manhattan, anyway? Let’s extend the ban to all of New York City: after all, the 9/11 attacks were aimed the whole of the Big Bad Apple, and certainly people in all boroughs were traumatized, perhaps they lost loved ones.
But why stop there? Indeed, the power-hungry demagogues who are trying to ride this issue haven’t stopped there, and are avidly trying to bring their campaign to the whole country. The idea is to stop the construction of any new mosques, anywhere, using building codes and public pressure to shut them down. The lunatic Pamela Geller – who believes Malcom X is Obama’s real father – and her “Stop the Islamization of America” stormtroopers have coalesced with Newt Gingrich, and are putting on a Sept. 11 rally at the World Trade Center site. Gingrich, rather than accept his has-been status and fade away gracefully, has decided to reinvent himself as the American Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who has made a career out of stigmatizing Muslims and campaigning to impose legal restrictions on the immigrant Islamic community. Wilders, who was refused entry to Britain on the grounds that they don’t let hate-mongers in, will have no trouble gaining entry to the US on September 11, when he’s a scheduled speaker at the hate rally. He’ll stand alongside Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican congressman whose history of palling around with the Irish Republican Army would seem to make him an unlikely speaker at an “anti-terrorist” event.
The cynical Gingrich bellows that Cordoba House should not be built until and unless a synagogue is allowed to be built in Saudi Arabia, knowing perfectly well that the group behind the project is not Wahabi – the Saudis’ strict sect – but Sufi, the most peaceful and anti-jihadist of the various strains of Islam. That isn’t stopping him from trying to revive his previously dead political career with yet another Republican “wedge” issue.
Somewhere, Osama bin Laden is smiling, delighted to discover a good chunk of American opinion agrees with him that Islam, by its very nature, is antithetical to the US and everything it stands for – a premise that puts us at war with over a billion people. He’s smiling because Gingrich is doing his evil work for him, striking a blow against our security far more effectively than anything al-Qaeda has so far managed to pull off. Polls show bin Laden & Co. are losing whatever popularity they once enjoyed in the Muslim world, with only 6 percent considering the Evil One an admirable figure. Oh, but don’t worry: Gingrich and the Anti-Defamation League are doing everything they can to rectify that.
President Obama, in reaffirming his support for religious tolerance in the US, noted that “this is America.” Yes, it surely is, but what kind of an America?
Right now, that’s an open question, and I frankly fear the answer. With Senator Harry Reid coming out against Obama’s civil libertarian stance, and several Democrats following his lead, it looks like the herd is stampeding in one direction and one direction only. This is what our politicians think of the American people – that we’re a bunch of intolerant unthinking idiots who quickly form a lynch mob at the least provocation.
Now that it’s politically incorrect to stigmatize or legally punish blacks, the lynchers have targeted a new victim: Muslims are the new Negroes. It may very well take a civil rights movement at least as persistent and brave as the one that acted on behalf of African Americans to stave off the gathering threat.
There is, however, a bright side to all this: in spite of backing down a bit later, the President’s statement and the venue in which he made it was heartening. I must say, however, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard Obama mount a defense of private property rights!
Which underscores a point libertarians have often made: that the freedoms we all take for granted are predicated on the centrality of private property as the very basis of our civilization and true liberalism (in the classical sense). There is no freedom of the press if you can’t own a press (or a web site). There can be no political and religious freedom without economic freedom.
One would think all libertarians understand this, and are rising to defend Cordoba House – and Muslims all across America – from would-be cultural commissars who would determine who may and may not build a house of worship here in the land of the free. So far, however, I’ve yet to see a single politician who habitually rails against “Big Government” even take a position on the New York mosque issue, let alone take the right one. Where are ya, fellas? The silence is deafening.
I used to think we were better than that: and by “we,” I don’t just mean libertarians, but the whole damned country. Can it really be true that people will fall for this kind of obvious emotional manipulation and demagoguery?
I refuse to believe it. If only the President hadn’t backed away, no doubt heeding the advice of his pollsters and political hatchet men, he could have turned this into a teachable moment, and shown his capacity for real leadership. The average American hates a bully, and the clownish Gingrich is such a vulnerable target: a veritable piñata waiting to be burst. The first major political figure to step forward and do the honors will find he or she has more support than they ever imagined.
This is really the acid test for civil libertarians of both the left and the right, because if the lynch mob succeeds it will set a terrible precedent – one we may all come to regret only when it’s too late.