I really hope you'll forgive me for doing this. You see, I don't want to write what I'm about to write.
Everyone's already sounded off on the Cordoba-House-Non-Mosque-Community-Center-Now-Called-Park-51-but-still-isn't-technically-a-mosque-bu t-is-still-Muslim-even-though-its-kinda-not-really-in-the-same-area-as-Ground-Zero by now.
And indeed a lot of the stuff I'm about to say is stuff I've already either said or wrote or thought loudly about since this thing first made headlines.
But there's just something about it that really presses my patriotism buttons, I guess. I mean, Sept. 11 was a turning point for me as a person. It helped turn me from a radical conservative into a radical liberal -- and later into the friendlier, more optimistic kind of liberal.
So here goes. Here's some reasons why this thing should be built. I'm going to count up how many good reasons I have when I'm done and put it in the headline for your convenience. Could be something between five and 25, but we'll see where we end up.
Reason 1. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Reason 2. I mean, really, that's all I need. That's all any of us, as Americans, should ever need to convince us to shut up and let people build their houses of worship wherever they can get the zoning approvals and the money. But seriously, it's in the Constitution. Not only that, but it's the first part of the Bill of Rights. Not the 7th, not the 3rd, but the FIRST Amendment.
I keep thinking of George Costanza catching Newman taking a day off when it's raining. George recites the creed of the postman to him: "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet -- It's the first one!" I guess the opponents were never too big on creeds either.
I'm being serious here. One of the things I love most about this country -- and it really gets the patriotic mucous swelling up inside me -- is the fact that Americans have the freedom to do as their consciences dictate, so long as it neither breaks anyone's leg, or picks anyone's pocket, as ol' Tommy Jeff put it not too long ago in the grand scheme of things.
Am I alone in this feeling? Does the freedom to worship, or not worship, as one sees fit really not matter that much to so many people? Or do my fellow citizens just apply it really, really selectively? Because if that's the case, we should remind ourselves that religious freedom doesn't exist to protect only the popular religions. Sometimes the faiths that Americans are occasionally uncomfortable with need protection too, and if that freedom isn't there for them when that happens, then why bother having it at all?
Reason 3. Another American value is the right to do what you feel like doing on your own private property. Again, so long as it doesn't rob or hurt people. That's a right that's pretty much been supported by court cases and legislation throughout our history, in hundreds of different examples.
And not just that, but it's practically a cornerstone of the conservative movement in this country. Say what you will about the Republican Party, but if they do nothing else for you, they'll stick up for your rights to do whatever you want with your own property. One could even say they place defending money and property over defending actual people.
But in this case, we're dealing with a group of people with a little bit of money and a little bit of property. So why not let them do what they want with it? Why aren't the conservatives rushing to defend this right? Suddenly they want Big Government bossing around property owners, telling them what they can and cannot build? This is so out of character for them!
Reason 4. What happened to the idea of rebuilding the area impacted by the Sept. 11 attacks? I feel like this idea has been lost during this whole debate. I was so tearfully hopeful that we were going to rebuild following the attacks because that's what Americans do. We're Americans, dammit. We build large, costly structures!
If you'd have told me nine years ago that instead of tourists flocking to the former Ground Zero to visit the New Twin Towers, or Freedom Tower or whatever you want to call it, we'd be sitting here arguing over whether to build a place of worship for a peace-loving people in the area, I'd have wanted to leave the planet and start fresh on frakking Krypton. Or Tatooine. Or even, god forbid, Pandora.
Have you seen the pictures of the neighborhood? No offense to New Yorkers, but it looks kinda shitty. And I don't know what it looked like before the attacks, either. But now, it looks kinda shitty. It should look a lot nicer. Life should go on, y'know?
And that's not even to mention that this bit of "hallowed ground" used to be a Burlington Coat Factory that has now stood empty for nine years since a piece of an airplane crashed into it. What kind of an inspiring, respectful message is it to just leave it standing empty?
Don't we want the area to look good? To represent American life at its best? So build something there, please. Whether it's a Muslim community center, or a video arcade or a really great steakhouse or a bank or a bakery or something. Doesn't matter to me. Just build. Rebuild. Please.
Reason 5. Not that I actually needed him to be to support his right to help build this building where he wants to build it, but Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque Imam" is a really cool guy.
I mean first of all, he signed up post-9/11 to help George W. Bush spread the word that the country was at war with extremists who perverted a beautiful religion, not the actual religion of Islam. Most of us know that. But I was also really touched by the speech he gave at Daniel Pearl's funeral. You can read a bit on that here.
So again, I didn't need him to be a nice guy who has said amazingly touching things to support his rights. The fact that he has no ties to any terror organizations is enough for me there. But still, I'm a sucker for this kind of compassionate behavior. It really hit me in the heart muscle.
Reason 6. Here's another reason I think conservatives ought to really get behind. You know who else is rooting for this thing not to be built in Manhattan? Osama bin Laden.
That's right. Him and guys like him, when they're not targeting Americans or Jewish people worldwide, are constantly at war with other representatives of the Islamic faith who are insufficiently kill-happy to satisfy the al Qaeda way of thinking.
Whenever traditionally Muslim countries form close ties with the West, or whenever peaceful Muslim moderates move the the U.S. to set up shop and live their lives, these guys get furious. Because to them, moderate Islam is false. Only they represent the "true faith." And if you're not in the true faith, you're just another infidel. As bad as any decadent Western pig or Zionist oppressor.
So believe me, if they wind up building Park 51, Osama bin Laden himself would have no qualms at all about blowing it up -- or rather suckering some starving, vulnerable twentysomething from a war-torn area of the world into doing it for him. It's not a thumb in the eye of Americans to build this community center. It's a thumb in the eye of extremists. And that's cool! Because the way to fight extremism is to keep on being a groovy secular democracy that respects all faiths.
I suppose that's about all I've got. I'm starting to run out of steam here, and I can tell when that happens because I keep going back to my original thought -- and that's that we're Americans. We don't do this kind of stuff. People died for this freedom, and we're going to abandon it with so little thought? Because of a mild discomfort with a certain group of people?
The reason why I'm writing this is because it really, truly gets to me. I can remember hearing people talking about it on the radio on my drive home the other day. I got so wound up with what I'd like to say to them that before I knew it, my cell phone was out of my pocket and I'd dialed half the number to the radio station. But then I figured fuck it.
Because it's a non-issue, or rather it should be. The question of whether we should grant special suspicion or special privileges upon some faiths was settled, in black and white, centuries ago in this country. Now since then we've strayed away from that ideal many times, but in my life I can't remember veering so far off course so fast for so little. This shouldn't be a debate -- not in the America that I know and love.
If you feel the same way, well I hope you got something out of this.
If not, and you're just tired of hearing about it, I suppose you can just get back to what you were doing. Nothing to see here.
It looks like I came up with 6 good reasons, so I'm gonna go write that into my headline and post this.