Personally, I would have thought that this president was too astute of a politician to wade into this matter, especially now.
Believe it or not, according to an NPR news story Monday, lawmakers have actually set aside debate over the economy and other pressing national matters to argue over President Obama’s statement supporting the building of an Islamic center within walking distance from Ground Zero http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129236595. This will surely add to anti-Obama passion as mid-term elections in November draw near – just what Republicans need. Right?
This will confirm for some that Obama is a Muslim, for others that his real father was Malcom X, and for others that he wasn’t even born in the United States. So, a lesser president would have remained silent in the face of injustice at the hand of public opinion.
Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/state.of.the.union/ to talk about the upcoming election and was asked for his personal view on whether the mosque should be built in New York.
“It would be wrong to politicize the issue,” he said, adding that the decision should be “up to the people of New York” on where the Islamic center should be built. But the president, just by bringing it up, has already made it a political issue, has he not?
Personally, I would have thought that this president was too astute of a politician to wade into this matter, especially now. Notwithstanding, the president was correct in saying that we must respect the Constitution. We can’t tarnish people’s first amendment rights whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Mormon. Allowing the Islamic center to be built says to the rest of the world that America is truly the country established by our Constitution. And if two blocks away from Ground Zero isn’t far enough away for an Islamic place of worship and school, how far away is far enough? Or is there no room for it anywhere in New York City? How about in your city? Demonstrations against the building of mosques have broken out in many American cities http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/08/protests-against-mosques-ground-zero_n_674766.html.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said, “It tells you that he (the president) has a very disdainful view of the American people. And I think that’s one of the reasons his favorability ratings have come down, not just his job approval rating.”
I disagree with Mr. Gillespie on his first point, but am in total agreement with him on the second. The president does not have a disdainful view of the American people, not based on anything that he has said. But I do. Frankly, I’m disappointed – perhaps “disgusted” would be a better word — with more than two-thirds of Americans who, as indicated by their view on this subject, are so filled with hate and fear of all Muslims that they would want them deprived of their First Amendment rights simply because those who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslims radicalized by extremist forces exploiting the faith. This is tantamount, I believe, to the hatred of all Japanese, even American citizens of Japanese extraction, that most Americans felt following the attack on Pearl Harbor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment.
Writing in the Huffington Post yesterday, Michael Bard put it this way http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mitchell-bard/the-proposed-lower-manhat_b_684081.html: “I have been disgusted by the right’s decision to politicize the issue, using the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the proposed Islamic center as a way to turn fear of “the other” into votes. (Newt Gingrich, an avid practitioner of fear mongering, has, not surprisingly, staked out a far-right position, equating Islam and the Nazis.) With each appeal to our basest, most xenophobic selves, the Republicans are systematically eroding the great American traditions of tolerance and diversity that have been a large part of the growth of the nation. (Note to the GOP: The Statue of Liberty is not just a pretty sculpture. It actually stands for something.) Even the use of the term “Ground Zero mosque” to describe the project is incendiary, intended to alarm at the expense of accuracy (the proposal is not for a stand-alone mosque, and the building would not be at Ground Zero).
Most of all, I have found it depressing that the right has turned a truly nuanced and complicated issue into a mean-spirited, us-versus-them test of patriotism.”
My wife’s dad, a deceased Marine veteran of WWII, was fond of saying, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” Now that’s true patriotism. I will expand on that in light of the current controversy by saying, “Although do not subscribe to your religious beliefs, I will fight to the death for your right to worship as you wish so long as your beliefs do not include the goal of overthrowing our democratic form of government.”
With over 3000 Muslims currently serving in our country’s military http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB125755853525335343.html, having sworn to uphold this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I cannot… will not believe that Muslim citizens cannot be trusted to serve the greater good.
This controversy, started by a right-wing blogger named Pamela Geller, has turned out to be a most fortunate distraction for Republicans. Now, rather than weighing Democratic efforts to restore the economy and build a better future for Americans against Republican proposals, namely, to dismantle enacted reforms and return us to the economic policies that got us into the mess we found ourselves in at the end of the Bush/Cheney years, voters will be increasingly blinded by doubt fueled by passions on steroids. Unfortunately, passion trumps reason every time for most of us.
Please feel free to respond with your views on this subject by posting a comment whether you agree with me or not.