President Obama proves once again, why he is the right person for the job. In remarks at the Ramadan Iftar dinner at the White House, he spoke in support of the controversial community center being planned 2 blocks away from “ground zero”. For anyone capable of being tolerant to others, this is really a silly issue. Jon Stewart does the best job of summing this up, go look at it. I am unable to embed Comedy Central clips on this blog, I’m too poor right now to pay the upgrade fee. But if you haven’t seen Jon’s piece, you really have to. Then come back here and read the rest of this post. There is a commercial that plays before the clip.
“Let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”
What bothers me about this crusade by Islamophobes and Xenophobes is that somehow because of the “symbolism” of it being so close to “ground zero”, the media is helping to push this bigotry and justifying it with the fact that it is close to the World Trade Center site. There are so many things wrong with this idea, the first is that the whole touchy-feely symbolism thing about everything, is getting out of hand. I’m not sure when Americans became soooo sensitive and such big wusses. Everything “sends a message” these days or has some sort of deeper meaning, apparently whatever any given person reads into a situation. It’s like we are all quivering little children who are afraid of anything that moves.
I remember thinking after 9/11 that a lot of Americans really have an attitude that an American life is much more important than any other life. How many hundreds of thousands of people have been killed around the world, genocide in Darfur, starving in many places of the world, but when 3000 people get killed in New York City, they are somehow way more important than the lives of…well, how about an estimated several hundred thousand in Iraq that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Feith/Wolfowitz and the rest of the neo-cons murdered in a war of choice. Now I’m sure some will take offense to that for the exact reason I said it and say something like “these were Americans killed on 9/11”. Yes, they were Americans and 310 of them were foreign nationals. One source I found said 62 Muslims died in the attack. But when you read or listen to those most outraged by the community center, they talk as if all 3000 where white, god-fearing Christians. I’m sure if we tried to point out to them the diversity of the people who were in those buildings, their eyes would glaze over and there internal “nah nah nah nah” would kick in.
Besides the symbolism thing, there is also the whole blaming an entire religion for the actions of a group of terrorists. Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic and killed 168 people in Oklahoma, are we preventing Catholic churches from being built because of Tim McVeigh? Or how about the Israeli serial killer that was just caught who killed 5 people, should we stop that synagogue from being built down the street? When people buy into that bullshit mentality, they are admitting that they are bigoted, there is no other reason for it. Of course these days being a racist has become chic (in some circles, not mine). The racists have come out of the closet and are being paraded on my television daily. Maybe it’s a good thing to get them out in the open, is it worse to have them simmering below the surface or out there in the light of day?
I recently traveled to New York and New Jersey, was all over NYC one day and do you want to know what was cool. There were people of all races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, whatever and they spoke many different languages….and the really cool thing about it, they were all getting along. When you get out into real America, one that isn’t filtered by a news anchor or political pundit, you see what the true American spirit is about. I didn’t see one teabagger protest during my whole trip. I didn’t see anyone screaming racial slurs at people. I didn’t see anyone yelling about illegal immigrants while packing a gun. I didn’t see Pat Buchanan dividing people up into stereotypes or Joe Scarborough talking about the latest poll on a street corner. I saw people living their lives and letting others live theirs. It was beautiful, really. I guess that is why I am making an effort to turn off my cable news, go out in the real world and interact with people. When we live in a cable news bubble, we run the risk of thinking like the people who want to ostracize anyone who is different from them.
I’m pasting the text of President Obama’s speech at the dinner last night after the fold. Read it, it shows that President Obama is a real American who contrary to the bigots on the right, knows the beliefs our country was founded on. Thanks to the LA Times for the text.