Before I begin this rant, remember that primaries are on Tuesday! Don’t forget to vote! And if you lean my way, live in Wisconsin and aren’t sure who to vote for, Fair Wisconsin Education Fund has put together a great list of LGBT-friendly politicians across Wisconsin! Check it out, and again, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Over the last week, I’ve had several conversations with members of my age group about 9/11. It’s amazing that it’s been nine years since my parents, glued to the radio, tried to explain the importance of hijacked planes and burning buildings to my baffled 13-year-old self. (I was home-schooled. No TV for me.) And most of my friends and I, discussing 9/11 in bars and between classes and during smoke breaks, have agreed: we’ve moved on. It’s a tragedy, and one we will never forget, but the world has continued to turn. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Airport security is still a bitch. We voted in a half-black man whose middle name is Hussein, for chrissake. We just want him to help us find a job.
Except midterm elections have appeared and, since the economy isn’t going to revive itself in the next 2 months, politicians and the media need something, anything else to talk about. Cue the “Terror Mosque.” Cue some guy in Florida holding “International Burn a Koran Day.” Cue the Tea Party Movement. Cue a 24-hour news cycle. Cue an over-flowing of intolerance. And here we are.
Now before I begin talking about the complete difference between the Park51 site, a debate with some actual merit, and an idiot with a handlebar mustache making Christians and Americans look intolerant and uneducated, let me acknowledge how much all this intolerance makes sense. Not logical sense, but in the sense of two wars draining our resources, a government and media that have scared the spit out of gullible Americans about terrorism, more failed terrorism attempts (think Times Square and the Underwear Bomb), and most of all, a failing economy. America is tired. America is scared. America just wants someone to blame, because honestly, we’re still not sure how we got here in the first place. Republicans can’t blame Bush, Democrats can’t yet fully turn on Obama, Independents are blaming everyone. So let’s blame the people that started this mess in the first place by disrupting our happy economy and lives and killing over 2,000 innocent people: Muslims.
Now I fully understand the inaccuracy of that last sentence. But put short and sweet, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
Now, on to the difference between Park51 and Pastor Terry Jones.
In case you’ve been living without technology, human contact, or any interest in America for the last few months, a man in Gainesville, FL with a ridiculous handlebar mustache proclaimed that “Islam is evil” and he has a right to burn the Koran because it’s “full of lies.” (I reserve the right to burn his pamphlets for the same reason.) The media picked it up and suddenly Mr. Jones caused a giant stir, causing even President Obama to call him off, and inciting riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan complete with burning effigies. Intolerance at it’s height.
But here’s the thing about Mr. Jones and his 50 fundamentalist parishioners. While they obviously need to learn about the Koran, it’s origins, and the common tie between Islam and Christianity, they’re well within their rights to burn the Islamic Holy Book, (assuming the city granted their burning permit, which it didn’t). If you can burn a flag, you can burn a Koran. They’re allowed free speech just like the rest of America. The End.
To me, they proved a point they weren’t trying to make. Namely, that just as Terry Jones doesn’t speak for all Christians, the members of Al-Qaeda don’t speak for all Muslims. The world mourned with us during 9/11. And that includes Middle Eastern countries.
Well, you’d think that would be the point. But looking to the Park51 site, it’s obvious that most people haven’t thought about it that way, though some, like those in Gainesville, have. Instead, somehow Terry Jones has become equated with a supposed mosque site by Ground Zero. Which really just makes the whole thing worse. It’s legitimate, at least in some ways, for people to worry about having a mosque so close to the site of a horrific tragedy caused by Islamic extremists. It becomes less legitimate when this worry is associated with people like Terry Jones. Now even those actually concerned with the feelings of the 9/11 survivors just look like, how to put this, intolerant blanking blanks. The two should NOT be compared!
Does that mean that every single person complaining about the Park51 site is just concerned about hurt feelings? Absolutely not. Many do think just like Terry Jones. Case in point: the site is not just a mosque, but part of an entire community center complete with a pool, and somehow that gets neglected a lot.
But it’s an important debate to have within our nation, and one long coming. Can we finally begin to put aside the suspicion, the fear, the us vs. them mentality, or are we going to make some of our citizens move their place of worship to a less unsettling arena? The answer remains to be seen. But I believe Park51, if built on the planned site, could give people a chance to see that building a mosque, along with a pool and community center, will not blow up New York City. Neither will it in any way endanger our right to pursue life, liberty and a thriving economy.
Instead it will provide construction jobs, give neighborhood kids a place to play and learn life skills, and offer some of our citizens a place to worship the God of Abraham in the manner they see fit. As they did in the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers. As is their right.
Disagree with me? Want to offer another opinion? Have better links than I do? Comment below!