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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Whatever you might think of Mike Bloomberg in general, these are the words of a statesman
Posted by Jill | 5:25 AM
And he understands what the founding documents mean a lot better than any teabagger:
We have come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We've come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that, more than 250 years later, would greet millions of immigrants in the harbor, and we come here to state as strongly as ever - this is the freest City in the world. That's what makes New York special and different and strong.

Our doors are open to everyone - everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it is sustained by immigrants - by people from more than a hundred different countries speaking more than two hundred different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here, or you came yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That's life and it's part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn't want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives.


This morning, the City's Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.

The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right - and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. 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? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. 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.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values - and play into our enemies' hands - if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists - and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime - as important a test - and it is critically important that we get it right.

On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked 'What God do you pray to?' 'What beliefs do you hold?'

The attack was an act of war - and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. 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.

Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation - and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshiping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.

The local community board in Lower Manhattan voted overwhelming to support the proposal and if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.

Bloomberg is exactly right, and as a Jewish man and New Yorker, he is also qualified to let his reptilian brain speak for both himself and his policies. He chooses not to, because he, like many of us, including many New Yorkers, chooses to NOT allow the reptilian part of his brain control his reactions, and more importantly, to control policy.

Right after the 9/11 attacks, there were very few American who didn't support the invasion of Afghanistan. I did. When someone attacks your country, just as when someone attacks YOU, you fight back. (Democrats in Washington seem not to have learned this.) Where George Bush started to lose Americans was when he for some reason allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora, largely abandoned Afghanistan, and instead chose to focus on a relatively secular Middle Eastern nation that had nothing to do with the attacks and did nothing to us. Had Bush succeeded with the stated mission in Afghanistan, EVERYONE would have rallied around him -- even me. However, the definition of "success" over the years has become ever more muddied. What is "winning"? Is it an equal civilian body count? We've long since passed that.

Today the majority lacks enthusiasm for the Afghanistan effort. No doubt there are those who would continue to support it if the president were a white male with an Anglo-Saxon-sounding name, and those for whom the idea of "success" would be turning the entire Islamic Middle East into a sheet of glass. But for the most part, it's because it's no longer clear what we are trying to do. The hatred and the immediacy of the need for revenge has, as it should, ameliorated with the passage of time -- except when it can still be used as a cudgel for cheap political gain.

Especially in an election year, to have a controversy like this brewing that largely succeeds in once again appealing to the reptilian, emotional brain is something that we really don't need. I wish that for that reason alone, the Cordoba Initiative had chosen another site. But at the same time, I would also argue that scoring cheap political points off of the corpses of the thousands of souls who died nearly nine years ago spits on their graves and shows a far greater lack of respect for this country's principles than any building that contains a mosque can possibly do.

The mission of the Cordoba Initiative is to promote understanding, to build a bridge between the Muslim community and the larger population of those who are not Muslim. That kind of bridge is designed to ameliorate the "us vs. them" mentality that drives young men to kill thousands of others in the name of a deity. This is not a bad thing. Who among us hasn't had a pang of fear when sitting in an airport and seeing a family in Islamic dress? Who among us hasn't thought, "I hope they aren't on my flight." I know I have. I don't like that I have, but I have.

An argument could be made that the moderate Islamic community hasn't "done enough" to denounce the actions of the extremists who claim to practice the Muslim religion. To that I would say that I don't think there is any amount of denouncing that would ever be enough for those who regard that pang of fear as a mark of their patriotism, rather than as the visceral response that it is. Funny, too, that no one has ever claimed that Christians aren't doing enough to denounce the actions of Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph. People seem able to recognize that the actions of an American Christian extremist with an American name do not represent all Christians. And yet, we seem unable to accept that not every practitioner of Islam regards mass murder as a virtue. To those who would say that Islam is a religion of converting the nonbeliever by the sword, I would tell them to take a look at the history of Christianity.

I still wish that this controversy didn't exist. I'd like to believe that if this community center were being built north of Chambers Street, there wouldn't be a problem. But this is an election year, and there is a huge American population that is terrified about its future. And just in case undocumented immigrants aren't providing a big enough target for Americans' displaced rage, in order to fully keep that rage away from the corporations that plan to continue stuffing their pockets until we are all on the street and begging for jobs for a nickel an hour, this controversy has unfortunately provided the wingnuts with an even bigger target.

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Anonymous mandt said...
While all these Islam hating morons are blathering on about a perfectly legitimate community center, why don't they protest the fact, that after all these years....THERE IS STILL NO 9/11 Memorial!

Anonymous tata said...
Right after the 9/11 attacks, there were very few American who didn't support the invasion of Afghanistan.

I did not support the invasion. It was all always lies, and the vast majority of the people of that nation - who were mostly under 18, by the way - had nothing at all to do with 9/11. We've been bombing an orphanage for nine years.

Blogger Jill said...
Hey, BC....sorry, your comment got lost in the ozone somewhere and it's too bad because I wanted to reply to something you said in it about "retaliation". Against exactly whom are we retaliating? Al Qaeda? Isn't that what the war in Afghanistan was supposed to be about? Didn't George Bush lead people like you to believe that "retaliation" was what the Iraq war was about? What constitutes "retaliation"? We kill as many of "them" as they kill of "us"? We've long since passed that. When are we "even"? And who are the "them"? Is it about body count only? Are you saying that ALL Muslims must be the targets of our retaliation? How do you justify that? Tim McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. Should we retaliate against ALL Christians who are veterans as a result? Please explain further.

Blogger Jill said...
Here is the text of BC's comment that got lost:

"Well I have been bugging you so much lately that another one won't matter I suppose. Of course they have the legal right to build the mosque/community/cultural center. It would be the smart and moral thing to refrain however. It is doubtful that they will refrain though. It appears that building the facility is more of an "in your face" kind of act than a "healing process" as advertised. I don't think I am alone in saying this. I would be interested in where a good deal of the funds come from to finance this deal also. Oh and Mandt, I wonder why there is no real 9/11 Memorial also. Tata - If you don't support retaliation for an attack on our soil then there is nothing really anyone can say to you. That sounds like something that the silly (and sad) pseudo Marxist JP would come up with. Not quite, but almost."

Blogger Bartender Cabbie said...
No prob- I would start out by saying that McVeigh paid a price for his action. Any that knowingly aided him in his project should also not be with us (Nichols?). Equating McVeigh with a decent person who happens to be Christian is a bit, shall we say, unbecoming. Now should we punish or retaliate against all Muslims for the actions of terrorists? NO! Were you wishing me to say otherwise? Muslims that live here in this country, abide by the law and generally assimilate into American culture are the same as any other American citizen. Muslims who live in Muslim lands (or anywhere else) who pose no threat to us or our allies should have no reason to fear us also. Now I still do not think that the mosque/center should be built. It is "hateful," and "offensive"." It dishoners the memory of those who died. "Offensive and "hateful" are usually words the left throws around, on and on and on, but there you have it. To me this "center" is similar to building a memorial to the 3rd SS in the vicinity of Buchenwald. That would truly be odius, offensive, unthinkable, and criminal, no mistake about it! But the land is private property and they do have the legal right to do as they please. To me that sucks, but that is the way it is.
Let us discuss Iraq here. Retaliation is what Bush led "people like" me to believe or so he attempted to do such. Personally I had mixed feelings. If Saddam indeed aided the terrorist movement in any way then he should have paid the price. Perhaps he did and perhaps he did not. Now Al Qaeda and their ilk do not seem to have any love lost for secular strongmen in the Islamic world, but maybe, just maybe, it was an "enemy of my enemy is my friend thing." Of course there have been no weapons of mass destruction found and apparently there has been no proof that the Baath regime aided Al Qaeda in any way. At least no proof that the general public is aware of. I am no Bush lover - think he was as incompetant as the current president. So should we have morphed the hunt for Bin Laden and co. into nation building in Iraq? That is a good question and I do not pretend to have the correct answer. One major problem with nation building in Iraq is that our troops will eventually leave. That will leave Iran in a stronger position than she already holds regionally. It also will likely result in people in Iraq proper to begin butchering each other over religious and political differences. There are no winners in that scenario.
Now what constitutes retaliation? What are you fishing for? Bin Laden is (allegedly) still living. The Taliban is resurgent. If our troops are captured by them they are killed out of hand. Are you looking for "fairness" from me? War is not a fair proposition. In Afghanistan (the regions under coalition control) female children can go to school, women can work, people can listen to music, fly kites (that seemed to irk the Taliban for whatever reason), etc. etc. So I have little patience with Islamic fundamentalistism of the stripe that denies people basic human rights. Have you not seen pictures of women who have been burned with acid, stoned, beheaded, etc. for something as stupid as perhaps "talking" to another man? Have you? A hero of the left, Bill Maher, said something to the effect of "do not become so tolerant that the intolerable become tolerable." Not sure if that was a direct quote but you get the gist. He was speaking of Islamic culture at the time I believe. This is one of the few times I agreed with him and on this subject at least, agree wholeheartedly. The Taliban aided and abetted (or at least tolerated the existence of) Al Qaeda and therefore they are guilty by association. It matters little to me how many are killed. There is no fairness in war - that is a ridiculous concept.

Blogger Bartender Cabbie said...
Hopefully my reply to your post went through. It seemed to have a problem working. If not, I will try again.