So imagine this scenario:
You just finished reading your big book of answers when you hear a knock at the door. You think to yourself, well, it can’t be Trouble because there was a knock. Trouble enters without letting you know. You walk to the door where you find three close friends. You let them in, but they seem different. There’s a look of fear, and a look of sadness in their eyes. This is when you realized Trouble can come into your home, invited, masked as Friendship. Your friends see your big book of answers sitting on the table and they tell you, “We’re sorry, but you have to come with us.” You’ve heard stories, you know what happens next, so you say, “Let me tell my kids I love them.” Your friends, the ones who have aligned themselves with Trouble in order to protect their families, lead you out of your house, as they take your big book of answers with them to be tossed aside, burned and destroyed.
This happens, in one form or another, repeatedly throughout human history. Jews know all too well this scenario, but so do Christians and Muslims. Any group in the minority – whether race, religion, sexual preference – knows what it’s like to be the “other,” and yet we, as a whole, do not learn from the past.
Take for example, this wonderfully xenophobic and unlearned quote given to the New York Times about Muslims in America:
“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”
“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”
Obviously, in a nation with more than 300 million people, the line between opinion and fact blurs, especially in this fragmented media era where we digest our news either in 140 characters or by listening to screaming talking heads. But you’d think the American public would know the basic history of our nation and see how silly they sound when they make comments like this.
How do you make an argument to not allow religious freedom, knowing that our country was founded because a group of people were being persecuted from practicing their religion in their homes?
Mayor Bloomberg’s speech (if you haven’t read it yet, read it here) was poignant in its approach, and more importantly, gets to the heart of the “debate:”
“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.
This discussion has spiraled out of control, namely due to others stepping in and voicing their opinions on how New Yorkers should react; that we should ‘refudiate’ the proposed mosque. The ironic thing is, those making the most/loudest noise -the Palins, Limbaughs, of the world – have made statement upon statement, act upon act, that New York is not America; that New York and LA/SF are liberal islands upon themselves and the real America is what’s in between. But they play the fear game and people take them seriously when they say that building a mosque by the WTC means the terrorists win.
This is not a win/lose situation – this is life, and as I’ve been told many times, “Life is not a game.” We have the ability to learn from the past and prevent Trouble from entering our homes while meeting up with Friendship for a beer.
Placing a mosque, a house of worship, by the site of the World Trade Center is wholly American. The fact that we can have discussion (no matter how ridiculous) about this shows the world that we firmly believe in open discourse, in the right to speak your mind. Building a mosque proves that we can be the beacon of light for those who have none in their countries; that we are the land of the free and home of the brave.