Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ground Zero and the Secular Stumbling Block

To estblish context for those unfamiliar with the controversy, I could link to Web pages which rightly call into question the motivations of those seeking to replace the old Burlington Coat Factory on 45-47 Park Place with either an Islamic cultural center or a mosque. I could also link to the opinions of people who look at the replacement plan as an act of planting an Islamic flag on the soil of infidels as an act of conquest. Instead, I link to the column of the redoubtable Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post: Charles Krauthammer - Sacrilege at Ground Zero.


Not all opinions in this world are of equal weight or value. An obtuse example might be the opinion of a linguist vs. the opinion of a botanist on the matter of glottochronology. A more clear example might be the opinion of a CPA on tax law vs. the opinion of a teenager who isn’t even allowed to work 40-hour work weeks yet. With that said, anyone who has never visited New York, or Lower Manhattan, or the Financial District, or the World Trade Center site and its environs is not someone who is likely to have a fully estimable opinion on whether one should oppose current plans to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from the heart of the World Trade Center site.

For starters, the old Burlington Coat Factory on Park Place (where the Islamic cultural center, replete with swimming pools, would be built sans minarets and loudspeakers) is two blocks from Ground Zero. It is not next door to Ground Zero, but two blocks away to the north and around the corner. When you are on Vesey St., which forms the northern boundary of the WTC site (except for the new 7 WTC which is above Vesey), you don’t see much or anything north on Park Place: this is because the buildings between the two areas obscure the view; this means that those at the WTC site really will not even see the proposed cultural center or would-be mosque, unless perhaps parts of the new building on Park Place can be seen from the upper levels of the new WTC buildings once they come up, not to mention the heights of 7 WTC which has been up for years. Otherwise, a distance of 2 blocks sounds close to the ear and looks close on a map, but the situation on the ground--at the actual areas in question--is different.

So people should realize this before they chime in on this controversy. Of course, this knowledge or realization does not guarantee that anyone will favor the redevelopment plans as opposed to opposing them, or vice versa. However, if one does not know the simple facts of the lay of the land in the general area of the WTC site, is his opinion on the matter really all that important?


Meanwhile, rank and file members of the political right wing continue their long trend of squandering the opportunities and gifts provided to them in election seasons. The Democratic Party was already hurting up until pretty much now and looking to lose seats in Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. However, one can at present witness the likes of Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Pamela Gellar taking sides on the controversy in question and also opposing plans to establish an Islamic cultural center or mosque two blocks from the heart of the WTC site. These folks may be even believe that they were given a political blessing when Barack Obama just yesterday made the news in making the public declaration that Muslims have the legal right to build a place of worship near the WTC site. These folks also fail to realize that in their opposition the redevelopment plans of 45-47 Park Place, they are making Obama and fellow liberals to be the true champions of the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution on this issue.

Liberals and progressives can and will cite the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and will appeal to the founding principles of United States of America, which has always been about freedom of conscience and of religion. Meanwhile, you have on the other hand these would-be conservatives who say, “No mosque near Ground Zero!” and whose only rejoinder to the clear words of the 1st Amendment can be Krauthammer’s principle of the supposed morality of zoning laws. Now, if conservatives were smarter then they would probably take a more nuanced approach to the matter at hand, not unlike Mayer Bloomberg’s approach in upholding the legal right to replace the old Burlington Coat Factory but recognizing the bad taste and/or insensitivity of putting an Islamic religious site close to the Ground Zero. Instead, however, we get at least one paradoxical ad placed on MTA buses which bears an image of the WTC attacks of 9/11 which bring to vivid memory the sad events of that day, presumably in an effort to drum up support for efforts either to shield people from memory of those events or to shield people from similar future events.

The way in which semi-conservatives or conservatives have been coming out of the woodwork to publically oppose the mosque plans, and the fact that seemingly none of those who side with the plans on legal grounds are conservatives--none of this will be lost on the American electorate before Fall 2010 or 2012. Conservatives have not necessarily found a way or wedge issue to get liberals voted out of office. However, they have found a way to make themselves look bad.


D.B. said...

Nice thoughts, my friend. Conservatives have a bad habit of knee jerk reactions that often make us look silly.

I suppose the Left also has this problem, but it is mostly expected. :-)

Kwame E. said...

Hmm, this is quite an old story, but it’s also one which has really picked up and been moving over the past several days. You also learn more about it, as you delve into it further. The NY Daily News was reporting back on August 11 that according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll 54% of Democrats nationally oppose--in one way or another--plans to construct the Park 51 mosque, which is interesting.

Anyway, I’m not sure that it is really in anyone’s best interest to start using zoning laws, or to do comparable actions, to filter out people who act in bad taste. If plans for the Park 51 place are shut out because they offend people, does this set a dangerous precedent? There are still people out there asserting that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian; so if another OK City happens, will Christians become the next victims of the supposed morality of zoning laws if someone wants to build a church near this sad, new bombing site?

In any case, reactions to the old-yet-unfolding story have been interesting. Over on Yahoo! Answers you get these knee-jerk reactions from people who cry “Racism!” concerning some people who oppose the mosque, even though the controversy is about religious matters and not racial matters. Go figure.