Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The 1st Amendment - Still In Force

All tennis players make mistakes, which we call "errors". Naturally some errors are more egregious and harder to make excuses for than others. I decided today that I would start referring to my worst errors with an acronym - UBB, standing for "ugly beyond belief". How should I pronounce it - "uhb"?

Have you heard about the upcoming doin's in Gainesville, FL? For once it isn't a football game or some other U of F-related event, but a bonfire. A local pastor together with a very outspoken flock of fifty or so believers are planning to burn all the copies of the Koran they can get their hands on to show Jesus just what they think of it. Warnings from Pentagon brass and the DOD itself are so far being ignored as plans go forward for Saturday's (9/11) burn fest. No word yet on Divine approval, so that part is, I guess, assumed. It seems like a classic example of something that everyone agrees is legal, which doesn't make it appropriate, except as a means to make the pastor, whose name I think I will skip, famous.

Which brings us to a little weightier subject - the Islamic Cultural Center/Mosque to be erected on privately-owned land in Manhattan, about 1000 feet from what we've come to call Ground Zero. The neighborhood, I read, could use a little religion given its concentration of tattoo parlors and adult-related businesses. In fact, the right-leaning pundits seemed to have no objection to the center until the final legal hurdle had been cleared to revamp the former Burlington Coat Factory into a multipurpose center which would include a room for Islamic religious observance.
At that point, as you may know, all hell broke loose in opposition of what's now called by some the "victory mosque". You don't even have to ask victory by who over whom. As if offering help, the punditocracy suggested, as if they knew, that it was "too far" from where local Muslims lived, and that it could serve as a "recruitment center" for future terrorists, or that, at the very least it was "insensitive" to the locals and should therefore be elsewhere. No one seems to make a specific suggestion or seems to care what happens to money already invested in the project. But all this time, the pundits insist that it "isn't a matter of religion". My Republican fellow believers instinctively take the line of least resistance, which is to oh-so-politely infer that "those" folks just aren't like "us", whatever that means in New York, and that therefore the Center should be erected atop a flaming oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Evidently they want to conceal the fact that thorny building permit fights are everyday events in Manhattan, and that this one is already over. In addition, if I were recruiting future bomb throwers, wouldn't I do it in a place that's a little more low profile than a $100 million facility that's liable to draw G-men watching who goes in every day?
Insensitive? Maybe, although the Pentagon itself has a room set aside for Muslims. But what really matters is whether we are willing to throw out our own founding law regarding the right to worship. That right, I submit, trumps all the clatter about what's appropriate, or sufficiently "sensitive" to 9/11 victim families. They bought the site, they got the permits, they followed the law and they (which is to say "all of us", because we are talking about Americans here) should go right ahead improving the neighborhood and helping young people stay out of trouble. When the Center is built and functioning, we'll forget there ever was a problem, the same way most have forgotten the trouble with those odd "Mormons" a hundred years or so ago.


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