Well, this is just tragic.
So the “Ground Zero” “Mosque” is being loudly opposed by many, who are against the idea of allowing Muslims to build a place of worship sort of near to where some extremists did something terrible nine years ago.
But a lot of the time, their arguments are focused on the sensitivity of the centre, rather than the legality of it. They think that it lacks compassion or respect to establish this building, with its basketball court, swimming pool, theatre, and other such un-American abominations, a mere five-minute walk a couple of streets away from the “hallowed ground” where the World Trade Centre once stood. The fact that this private organisation might not be legally permitted to build on this privately owned ground hasn’t seemed to be a big part of the dialogue.
The protestors don’t want it to happen, certainly, but this always seemed to be more on the grounds of personal offense than any real legal objection.
Clearly much of the offense is itself misguided, too. There’s a lot of divisive rhetoric that seems to assume that “we” were attacked by terrorists, and now “they” want to build some kind of terror-shrine on the site of “their” victory. Fox News are doing a fine job of making the scary Muslim bigwig with the suspicious foreign-sounding name who’s behind the community centre (and who also owns a large chunk of Fox News) sound scary.
But critics have tended to try to steer the discussion away from being a legal argument. Perhaps this is just because they know they have absolutely nowhere to stand in a legal argument, and so trying to brush aside people’s rights by constantly parroting that it’s “not a matter of religious freedom” is the best they can do.
Except it turns out that maybe I’m giving people too much credit. I’d assumed they were mostly just stupid enough to think that their personal indignation means a damn when it comes to other people’s freedom to exercise their own business. But apparently a lot of them are a whole different breed of idiot.
Just barely half of people recently polled believed that there is a constitutional right to build a religious building on privately owned property. Almost half either were convinced that no such right exists, or were not sure.
And although there is a notable split along party lines, that’s not especially comforting either. One in four Democrats also gave this question a firm “No”.
I’d really like to see the answers to some follow-up questions here. Do this quarter of Democrats – and more than half of Republicans – think that a Christian church would also be illegal in this location? Or do they think that the First Amendment contains a special provision to account for when people would be upset? Maybe they’ve read a little-known footnote added by Thomas Jefferson at the last minute, reading “unless they look foreign and weird”?
The most elaborate argument any of them have against this centre – the most profound and compelling reason they can find for restricting other people’s rights – is essentially a tutting noise.
I sometimes wonder why it always seems to be the lunatic right who are incapable of distinguishing their own personal preferences from everybody else’s rights, and why they’re the ones who assume that anyone else is ever obliged to give a fuck about where their moral outrage is pointed this time. Apparently this is my answer. There’s no hope on the left, either.
No, you know what, fuck that. I’m not ending this on a sigh, and just exasperatedly concluding that the world is doomed. There are still large swathes of people out there – millions of them, perhaps even a majority – who are capable of looking beyond the still raw wound of this colossal violation, and not letting it taint their perception of the entire world from then on. A lot of people can still maintain the presence of mind to distinguish the hateful from the innocent, even in the wake of national and personal bereavement. There are many people responding to the Islamic community in America with compassion, and establishing relationships even with those religious people who share a faith with the terrorist monsters behind this atrocity.
Also, here’s one Republican who supports the liberal, decent position on religious rights: Ted Olson, Solicitor General under President Dubya, whose wife was on a plane and killed on 9/11.
That’ll have to suffice as a unicorn chaser for now. I’m having a lazy evening at home, and sometimes at work I have to actually, like, work, so I’m a bit pushed for time.