Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Mosque At Ground Zero

Here is a recent tweet from Debra Dickerson:

YES u have a rite 2 a mosque @ground zero just as theres a rite 2 desecrate the flag. & FU very VERY much 4 exercising it.#goahead&hateme
 I am not mad at Debra Dickerson but I do strongly disagree. 

When I attended yeshiva in Baltimore (many, MANY years ago) you could pretty much rely on the sides of the building being covered in graffiti swastikas on the morning after Halloween.  People did not want a yeshiva anywhere nearby.  It was a Jewish institution (nondescript as it was) and people didn't like having a building full of Jews (CHRIST-KILLERS!) in their immediate vicinity.  They wanted us to go away, somewhere where they wouldn't have to be reminded of the accommodations required of them by the spirit of tolerance.  Nobody was advocating that we be rounded up and arrested or that we be expelled.  They preferred, however, that we not so apparently occupy the city they lived in.  We were citizens, they would have grudgingly admitted, many of us even born in the United States...but we weren't REAL citizens.  Fuck us for taking advantage of the rights which, technically, we were granted.

This thinking (although it is a stretch to call it such) is destructive of the very American spirit people seem to think they are upholding. So it is with the question of a mosque being built near Ground Zero.  

Lest anyone think that I can respond this way only because I did not experience the pain of 9/11/01 I offer the following:

  • Many of the streets of my neighborhood (Inwood, Upper Manhattan) have been renamed to commemorate neighbors who perished -- both as occupants and as rescue workers -- at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  They are a constant reminder of what happened.
  • Inwood Hill Park, three blocks from where I live, was the site of an extensive memorial installation of flags in 2006.  
  • Both my wife and myself had worked in World Trade Tower 6 for about ten years (although we had departed for other jobs by 2001). 
  • I was working on 45th street, walked about 70 blocks uptown to finally catch a subway home.  
  • Phone lines were so congested we could not communicate with our kids or with their schools for hours -- during which time we were unsure whether another attack on New York might be imminent.  
  • None of my personal friends died in the World Trade Center that day but many of them were present and I have heard them tell horrifying stories of what happened.  
  • If, after a full, open and legally proper trial, the individual perpetrators of the horrors at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were to be found guilty I would have no qualms about seeing their lives ended.  
  • In fact, although my personal involvement in 9/11 does not approach that of thousands of people who were there and thousands more who lost friends and loved ones it is still greater than at least 95% of the population of the United States.

None of the above, however, has any bearing on whether a mosque should be built near Ground Zero.  It isn't proposed in an adversarial spirit but in a healing one.  

People whose guts tell them that a mosque near Ground Zero is a repugnant prospect should carefully interrogate their guts; they are being led astray by their visceral responses.

I welcome dissenting opinions articulated reasonably.  I want to talk about this.  I do not welcome epithets, screeds, or thoughtless blathering.

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