September 05, 2010

Too Much, Too Little

I haven’t published anything this week, though not for lack of trying. My head is filled with too many thoughts. And a good number of those are going into my twice weekly journals for Spiritual Formation. But I want to write. I have things to work out, and the process of writing helps me do that. I have things to say in support or response to others. I want to come out in favor of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. I want to tell my friend Jake that people aren’t inherently bad and sinful (so there!) even if we are a little broken, we’re also good and wise and full of buddhanature. I want to innumerate all the reasons why Glen Beck is either demented or a better actor than Stephen Colbert and Sean Connery combined (but that could take years). But I haven’t the time or mental energy to do the research to give any of them a proper treatment. There is too much and I am too little. Some things, I guess I just have to let go.

But only some things. So I’ll just say this about the first topic: We ought to build a mosque at Ground Zero. By that I mean a mosque and by that I mean Ground Zero. I do not mean an Islamic cultural center two blocks away in an old Burlington Coat Factory, as is currently being proposed and misnamed the "Ground Zero mosque."

When I first learned of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” I was delighted. I thought “What a wonderful idea to demonstrate the true spirit of American than by embracing the religion that was perverted in order to commit atrocities. What a great way to uphold freedom of religion and create a spirit of inclusion and forgiveness. I mean, Christians are all about forgiveness, right? And America is all about freedom of religion, right? And we’re a pluralist country built on the backs of immigrants, right? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we included some kind of chapel for all the faiths, so that as people visit the memorial and remember the victims, who accounted for numerous religions including Islam, they could seek solace in their own tradition.”

Then, as the newscaster went on about this planned “mosque,” I was stupid enough to listen. I was terribly discouraged by the fear mongering and criticism and intolerance I heard. Sarah Palin contended that none of the hundred mosques already in New York failed to prevent September 11th. I wasn’t aware any of the hijackers attended a New York mosque. (Should we outlaw churches in Oklahoma because they failed to stop Timothy McVeigh?) Another talking head asserted we shouldn’t allow mosques in the United States because one can’t build a Christian church in some Muslim countries. I wasn’t aware we were taking our cues for how a free nation should behave from repressive, totalitarianism regimes. People say it’s disrespectful to the victims’ families. What about the Muslim victims who were working in the Twin Towers that day or on the airplanes? (And no, I’m not talking about the hijackers.)

Finally, one gentleman pointed to the truth of the situation, that this isn’t about Islam or honoring the dead. This is about the upcoming election. The announcement regarding the Islamic culture center was made a long time ago, over a year, I believe, and no one made a fuss. It’s only as the November election has loomed that Republicans and Tea Partiers, lacking any concrete policy recommendations of their own, have latched onto anything to criticize,. What better than something that they can link to the most traumatic event in the living memory of our nation?

They have the right to protest and speak their minds, however disgusting. Their right to protest the culture center is guaranteed by the very same document that guarantees the right of the Islamic culture center to exist. To deny a constitutionally protected right is to call into question the entire edifice of constitutional law which also protects them. They seem not to notice.

A number of responsible voices, such as Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama, can also be heard, but even they have been cautious is their “support,” citing constitutionally guaranteed legal rights rather than the more ambiguous moral questions of right and wrong. I can be less hesitant thanks to my utter lack of celebrity. I support the culture center and would suggest the inclusion of a true mosque within the Ground Zero memorial itself as a concrete example of compassion, forgiveness, understanding, inclusion, and respect. The memorial should include worship spaces for as many world religions as we can manage. Religion is great solace to the grieving.

That is all I shall say for now. I am sorry it is not as well thought out as I had hoped, and without sources cited. I would like to have linked readers to some of the more articulate responses to this disturbing argument. They are out there. I hope you go find them.

In the future, I shall begin posting my twice weekly journals. This will be something of a spiritual journey as my professor questions us about the meaning of our “faith,” a word I have commonly eschewed. It is intended to culminate in a spiritual autobiography. Even I know not how this story is going to end. I look forward to finding out.

In the meantime, support the “mosque,” excuse my brusqueness, and maybe give a moment to contemplate your own spiritual autobiography.


Crystal said...

I thought it was well put. It has been a topic of conversation around our house. Not the mosque specifically, but how the media has treated the topic and the fearmongering you mentioned. Sometimes it feels as though that "freedom of religion" (you know, that thing in the constitution) really means you are free to practice any religion you want, as long as it's a christian religion. However, as long as there are people who are aware and people who truly care for others regardless of their background, there is hope.

John said...

Do you understand why the average American is so pissed off about this? Would you like to see a Shinto shrine floating in the water above the USS Arizona?
I don't blame the average Muslim for 911, but I do forgive the average American for being angry about this particular mosque.

Monica said...

Remember, more innocent civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the U.S. invasions than died on 9/11 by a factor of 30 (conservatively). Do you understand why the average Muslim is pissed off about this?

By your logic, there should be no Christian churches in Jerusalem or at Wounded Knee. Or, if you want a more current example, there should be no churches in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By that logic, there is no end to blame and hate.

I'll forgive the average American for being angry about what happened on 9/11, but I won't just stand by and let them take it out on whomsoever they please, so long as it suits their prejudices. This current anti-Islamic rhetoric is just the latest in a long line of anti-minority sentiment used to bolster a sense of "us" by scapegoating "them."

"Hate never ended by hate, by love alone is hate cured." - Dhammapada 1:5

Or if you'd prefer, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." John 8:7 or "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also." Luke 6:27

John said...

If Imam Rauf wanted to build bridges between Muslims and other Americans, he sure has a strange way of doing it.
I think that the Imam Rauf doesn't care what the average American thinks. I think he wants the approval of international Muslims, who might donate to his projects after he completes this "in your face" spectacle. If he pulls it off, he will be a "big man" in the Muslim world. Maybe the same people who were dancing in the streets of Gaza after 911 will dance again.

Bah, I am full of anger. I just wish I was wrong.

Monica said...

LOL, John. It probably won't make you feel better, but I think you just may be wrong. I can only speculate as to Rauf's motives, but from what I've heard of him from before this incident, he is a very good person and good America who has been trying to build bridges for a long time.

NO ONE objected to this project when it was originally announced. Fox News even reported it during primetime and it got no response. It wasn't until the elections loomed months later that certain people began talking about it. This so-called "outrage" is manufactured. I'm sure some people are genuinely mad, but most people are mad about it because one of the talking heads told them they should be. They've been told this culture center will be used to recruit and train terrorists, which is patently absurd.

Believe it or not, the terrorists hate this project. They'd assasinate Imam Rauf if they could. Remember, they're TERRORISTS. They want people, including (especially) Muslims, to live in fear. They don't want us peacefully coexisting with one another. They want to keep American Muslims and non-Muslims alienated from one another. People are frightened of the unknown. Whereas if we have good Muslim neighbors (and most Muslims are good neighbors) and good, peaceful mosques (and most are) in our cities, we might get to know our fellow citizens a little and stop being afraid of them. All this angry rhetoric is as much in the terrorists' interest as it is in the politicians.

On another note, it doesn't matter what the so-called "average American" thinks. (And I find that term offensive, by the way.) The Constitution exists to protect all people from the tyranny of the majority. It failed for the better part of American history, but with the end of slavery, suffrage, and expansion of civil rights, we've gotten progressively better. All those people who fought for those Constitutionally protected rights to be enforced would be appalled to hear major political figures now arguing for their abridgment to suit their own short-term political goals and hiding behind the names of the innocent dead.

I am sometimes tempted to get angry about the situation, though at entirely different parties than you, and I have to deal with that. But mostly I'm just bewildered and very, very sad. I hope everyone wakes up soon.

Much love to all.