It is worth remembering that, no matter how idiotic and clumsy some of our leaders are, how stupid the things they say, how insane the things they do, you can always count on Faux News to up the ante.
They really are a divine little propaganda organ. Their view of the world is perfectly in sync with the oligarchy that's imposed itself upon America. And their fiercely loyal viewers are told, over and over again, that We Report, You Decide.
Regarding the matter of Park 51, the prospective Islamic community center in a former Burlington Coat Factory store a couple of blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center -- I'm sorry, the mosque near Ground Zero -- Peter J. Johnson of Faux News lets us know in no uncertain terms his standards for citizenship:
"I look for the day when this is no longer about politicians or pain or protest, but about neighbors becoming good neighbors," he said.
"Thank god and our founders for the First Amendment, but God help us if it all comes down to the need to rely upon it," he continued.
"Any American can assert a right. Great Americans give up their rights to help those they share nothing else with but a love of this country," he concluded.
As you'll see if you read from the link, the lead-in to this was a swipe at Fred Phelps, the despicable bastard whose extended family calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church, and protests whatever their particular agenda is at various funerals across the country. Johnson conflates both Phelps's tired tirades and the planned Park 51 -- in other words, Phelps's little stunts are the exact same thing as the construction of a community center near the WTC site. Or at least that's what Faux would have you believe.
I loathe Phelps, and have invoked him on my LJ numerous times, and I wish there was a simple public decency law against him disrupting a funeral. But he can say whatever the fuck he wants to say. I disagree with him on every level, but by damn he can say it.
That's what the First Amendment does.
And it does so because governmental stifling of opposing views is the first, most odious, and most effective way to suppress a people.
And I think that if somehow the Founding Fathers and all those who have bled and died over the past 234 years defending our rights could hear Peter J. Johnson's smarmy assertion that "Great Americans" give up their rights, Mr. Johnson would get the biggest historical ectoplasmic bitch-slapping in the history of the world.
But, again, he has the right to say it. I bet he even believes it, on some level. Although he may not apply it to himself.
But he says it, and some people watching Faux will hear it, and take it to heart.
The first intention of it, obviously, is to build public sentiment against the not-a-mosque. And it's another step on the path of the attempt to, at least in public opinion, make Muslims Not As Good As Us. Different. As Stephen King or John Wyndham said, Fear Thou The Mutant.
But it works in the same way on the people it tries to rile up against the Muslims.
It says, in essence, "Good citizens -- no, Great Americans -- need to set aside their freedoms when necessary. We'll tell you when it's necessary."
And it becomes that small little bit easier for the oligarchy to control more people, to make the intolerable seem normal, to bludgeon people into shrugging and lowering their heads and not calling attention to themselves.
And the worst thing is, the first instinct for protecting yourself is to not trust anybody. Which also is a great way of making people malleable: divide and conquer, y'know?
You have to trust yourself. You have to trust your friends. You have to cultivate your own information sources, and that can take awhile. The idea is not to mistrust, or even to trust-but-verify, but to get as much truth as you can, and then work out what you can do for yourself, your friends, your community, your country with the truth. No matter what it may be.
And one of my truths is: You do not give up a right.
The Bill of Rights is a pretty cool document. It tries to cover everything, and, given the context of 1775-1789, largely succeeds. (And many of its problems, such as voting rights for minorities and women, have been ironed out over the years.) The most important things is that it does not enshrine spurious things as "rights". It says people should expect a certain amount of goodness in their lives, and these are the rules by which others are not allowed to interfere with that. It sets up very basic rules, largely intended to prevent governmental suppression.
They also work against what has become known as "the tyranny of the majority" -- circumstances where a larger segment of the population approves of something which would oppress or harm a smaller segment.
We see this a lot lately with gay rights, with women's reproductive rights. But it can apply to anything. And lately it's been a backlash against all things Muslim, fostered by talk radio and the Tea Party and Faux News and unfortunately reinforced by such people as Howard Dean who should bloody well know better.
As long as it doesn't violate local codes, as long as the people running it follow the laws, what Park 51 is really doesn't matter. It is the right of the people who want to build it to do so.
And they damn well shouldn't give that up because some xenophobic liars want to scare them into becoming their twisted, docile, head-down, know-your-role-and-shut-your-mouth version of Great Americans.
[Cross-posted from Tom Smith And His Digital Acoustic LiveJournal]