Politics is replacing humanity. It’s chipping away at our collective common sense and it’s clouding our ability to reason.
As I watched Sen. Arlen Specter tell Sean Hannity that maybe Americans lean Independent these days, that perhaps it’s not about having to agree with Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama but some policies of both, I just kept nodding. Yes, Senator. I may not be your biggest fan (sorry, but Anita Hill stuck with me), but on this one you’ve got it just right and I’m woman enough to admit it.
For this, the weighing of individual situations and a resistance to, instead of a penchant for, generalizing would bring a shift that would make us a better, more intrinsically beautiful country.
Instead, we have been fighting about the appropriateness of a place of worship being built in downtown Manhattan. The ability to see that it is perfectly acceptable to have a mosque near Ground Zero separates the emotionally intelligent from the immature thinkers among us. This isn’t political, people.
The World Trade Center towers didn’t come crashing down on Democrats or Republicans or Independents, or for that matter, Christians or Jews or Muslims, rich or poor or middle class. They came crashing down on citizens of all stripes on September 11, 2001. If you lost a loved one on that day and you’ve chosen this proposed mosque as your battle, then perhaps you’re being called to expand your mind and heart and see that, like Father Brian Jordan said on Governors Island in front of the Statue of Liberty this week, it wasn’t Islam that brought down those buildings; it was fanaticism, “an abuse of free will.” That distinction requires we overcome the ‘us vs. them’ mentality and embrace a more global, “greater good” one.
This is not about “bleeding hearts” letting Muslims run rough-shod over the city of New York. It’s not an affront to Christianity or Judaism. It’s not dishonoring the people who have given their lives for this country or their survivors. It’s not giving in to “the enemy.”
It’s just the opposite.
“The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city but also our country and our Constitution,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights -- and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.”
Just as Shirley Sherrod eventually saw her error in viewing all whites as she viewed her father’s murderer, for resenting all of one kind because of the actions of an individual, we need to examine our own prejudices and presumptions. It might be understandable to make the occasional sweeping generalization, but it definitely doesn’t reflect any kind of moral superiority or righteousness to stick with it unchecked for the duration. And to call it “Islamist triumphalism” – well, that’s just ego-focused.
“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question -- should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?” Bloomberg said. “That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.”
Darned right. Maybe I was feeling particularly attuned to how precious our rights are because I heard the mayor’s words when I was fresh off a delightful lunch with my cousin, a George Washington University student who just returned from studying Arabic in Syria. She shared stories of untruths being taught about our country and what it was like for her to see the oppression of women there.
Is that archaic thinking and intolerance what we’re looking to emulate? Way to set the bar high.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the story of her own grandparents coming to America from Ireland because they couldn’t practice their religion there and called for a “deepened commitment to religious freedom” while speaking at Governors Island this week.
“Any further attempts to derail this development would be at its core un-American,” Quinn said.
Common sense. Reason.
And blessedly, humanity.