Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mosquerade

I try to steer clear of the overtly-political in my online writing.

I do this for two reasons:

(1) It brings out the worst in other people. In one of my Lost columns I tossed in some half-baked attempt at getting a laugh that involved a (very) veiled potshot at former President G.W. Bush, and promptly recieved a dozen emails telling me to keep my [CENSORED] mouth shut about the politickin'. None of them were polite. To say the least.

(2) It brings out the worst in me. I think most people secretly believe that their POV is the correct POV. I'm not immune to this syndrome, and if the majority of the internet is any indication, neither is anyone else. There's very little rational discourse about political decisionmaking in this country, and that's a shame because (a) its necessary and (b) it acts as an important counterpoint to rumor-mongering, gossip and trivial nonsense. Why would I want to add to the catty mentality?

Nonetheless, I feel the urge to do a little politically-based rambling today, and not the rational kind. I want to speak from the heart for just a minute.

"Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real." - Sarah Palin, 'tweeting' about the plan to build a Mosque near the (still not rebuilt) site of the World Trade Center tragedy.


Ms. Palin, allow me to be honest (and to pretend to address this to you personally). You live in Alaska, a state that's about as ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse as a snowflake. The likelihood of your having spent even a modicum of time with a Muslim in anything resembling a comfortable, non-posed-and-vetted setting is, frankly, laughable.

It does not occur to you - has probably never occured to you - that there might actually have been Muslims in those towers when they fell. It does not occur to you that some of the firefighters and policemen who gave their service that day were Muslim. It does not occur to you that the groups of survivors in the aftermath - the families and friends and loved ones of the dead - contained, and contain, Muslim people. It certainly does not seem to occur to you that the entirety of New York City might actually contain peaceful practitioners of Islam who desire a place of worship.

None of this occurs to you, I assume, because you've led the sort of sheltered, homogenous existence that many people live. You've never been/felt compelled to venture outside of your own comfort zone, and your life choices have ensured that you'd never have to do so. Wasilla may be a great lil' place to raise your kids, but it's a dirt-poor excuse for real diversity.

So. Allow me to explain something to you:

Until you've spent more than a week in this amazing city living in something other than a lavishly-appointed suite, until you've ridden the public bus/subway with a literal rainbow of humanity's potential (from peeing bum to Mayor Michael Bloomberg), and voluntarily exposed yourself to what it actually means when you live in a melting pot, you don't get word one in this discussion. You don't get to fetishize a tragedy that for all its actual impact on your personal life might as well have occured in Russia. You don't get to weigh in on what's appropriate during the rebuilding process.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I looked out of my apartment window and watched the towers fall. I was blocked from trying to make my way downtown in order to help by sympathetic, stonefaced men in flack jackets. My calls to loved ones who worked in and around those buildings were delayed and denied, and though I'm very, very lucky not to have lost anyone I personally knew on that day I'll never forget the panic that comes with trying in vain to reach a family member and getting nothing but silence. That night, I walked empty city streets lined with enormous, intimidating military vehicles and listened as people of every religion, every skin color, and every class, tried to make sense of something profoundly senseless. The very first person to voice his sadness and his anger to me that day was a Muslim. We lived that tragedy - are STILL living that tragedy - every day; in the air we breathe, in the people we lost, in the city itself.

You watched it on the news.

And now, here you are, appealing to "peaceful New Yorkers" (a group which, one can assume, doesn't include Muslims as far as you're concerned, since "peaceful Muslim" appears to be a nonsensical word grouping like "Jumbo Shrimp" in your mind) and attempting to create an issue where there is no issue. Will there be a Mosque near/on/in/on top of Ground Zero? I don't know. And, frankly, I don't care. Because it doesn't matter - no matter how many pushy-fear-mongers-who-think-that-stunt-opposition-to-religious-symbolism-is-the-same-thing-as-doing-something-that-actually-counts-in-this-world insist otherwise.

I'm getting testy. I'll let Bloomberg handle the rest of this:

I think our young men and women overseas are fighting for exactly this, for the right to, of people to practice their religion and for government to not pick and choose which religions they support and which religions they don't. Sarah Palin has a right to her opinions, but I could not disagree more. Everything the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness, and I think it's a great message for the world that unlike in other places where they might actually ban people from wearing a burqua or they might actually keep people from building a building, that's not what America was founded on, nor is it what America should become.


Amen.

8 comments:

  1. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for writing it.

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  2. What about this tweet from her one hour later?

    "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing"

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  3. Agreed, really nice post. I remember when designs were being submitted for the planned memorial, and almost all of them contained symbols for things like hope, renewal, peace, unity, and all that. It seems like you're really nullifying that message if you're going to say that only certain religions can appear within a certain radius. I don't know, I think having a mosque nearby could act as a really lovely symbol.

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  4. Nicely put! I wonder what Shakespalin would say if a politician expressed outrage and protest (via FB, of course) about the proposed building of a christian megachurch in Wasilla?!

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  5. Thanks for the uniformly kind comments, guys. I expected some hatemail but have not, so far, recieved any.

    Madness,

    I suspect she'd be superfine with that. The more "Christianity" (and by Christianity, she means HER Christianity, not anyone else's) the better, after all.

    Katie,

    I've since read more about this nonsense, and it turns out that what's been proposed isn't even a Mosque, per se. It's an "interfaith community center," which will, as the word "interfaith" necessarily implies, contain a Mosque.

    Which makes this even MORE ridiculous.

    Anon,

    That post makes it sound as though she's communicating with aliens. "Peaceful Venusians! We mean no harm! Simply understand that your presence...frightens and confuses us!"

    You know what Jesus says about being stabbed in the heart? Let them stab you.

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  6. Very nice post! I couldn't agree more!

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  7. Thanks, D. Great to see you!

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