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Serious Stuff

Ground Zero for Religious Intolerance

by Somebody Else
September 17, 2010

The events of September 11, 2001 at the site of the former World Trade Towers have, for most citizens of the United States, come to represent a defining moment for our collective identity as a nation. This site, now commonly referred to as Ground Zero, has taken on the status of hallowed ground, much in the same way that the battlefield at Gettysburg or the D-day beaches in France are recognized as places where American blood was copiously spilled in defense of our cherished national ideals and principles: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, unlike Gettysburg and D-day, in the main, the victims of 9/11 were not soldiers fighting a known enemy, but rather innocent civilians going about their normal daily routines, which were ruthlessly and permanently interrupted by a well-planned and expertly coordinated attack. Unlike Gettysburg and D-day, generally speaking, the victims of 9/11 were not combatants seeking to defeat an enemy, but rather unsuspecting individuals swept up into a sudden catastrophe which would have deep and lasting implications for American society and for the world as a whole.

It is quite natural for the people of the United States to want to believe that the events of 9/11, tragic and awful as they were, have spurred us on to something great and noble. We rebel and protest at the very idea that those who died on 9/11 died in vain. No, we insist, they did not die in vain, and to prove it, we are going to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

Never mind the rather dubious and dishonest reasoning process that was required to make that ostensible connection, which in reality was nothing more than a convenient pretext for the true primary motive, namely, the need to safeguard and further America's energy resource interests. The invasions took place, and several years, thousands upon thousands of lives (both American and foreign), and billions upon billions of dollars later, we are finally belatedly pulling troops out of Iraq (which, despite our extended occupation there, could easily revert to a hostile regime once we have fully withdrawn our military presence) and struggling to maintain control in Afghanistan, that vast wilderness of rugged mountains and hideout caves that defeated and humiliated the once mighty former Soviet Union, and which will readily fall under the authority of the Taliban the very moment we remove our forces.

Thus, our cherished American narrative went careening off the rails in two stages, first with 9/11, and then with the subsequent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The cost of the deception and misinformation has been stunning, to say the least. But aside from the very tangible cost in human lives and in taxpayer money that might have been better spent on things like education and infrastructure instead of on Patriot missiles and billion dollar tanks produced by unimaginably powerful and wealthy corporations like McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing, there has been yet another cost, harder to quantify, more difficult to define, but a terrific price to pay nonetheless. As a sad and pathetic means of psychologically coping with the confusion, unease, and financial ruin that the military misadventures of the last several years have brought upon us, we have begun to take tentative steps to abandon the core principles upon which our nation itself was founded.

Actually, the dismantling of our fundamental national identity began immediately after 9/11 when the grossly misnamed Patriot Act was passed, an act of legislation that stripped Americans of many of their most elemental constitutional rights as citizens. What followed was a wave of jingoistic feeling that was founded in fear, uncertainty, and a fevered desire for retribution. The masses were manipulated by the powers-that-be. An enemy and scapegoat was needed to justify the unprecedented military invasion of two nations at once so that our unmitigated thirst for oil might continue to be slaked for the foreseeable future. That enemy was fanatical, violent, fundamentalist, and heavily politicized non-mainstream Islam. However, our impatience with adjectives overcame many of us, and we conveniently simplified the description. Islam itself was declared the enemy.

How many people were involved in the planning and execution of the events of 9/11? Perhaps more importantly, were all of those people really Islamic? Was the entire Islamic world behind them? Was the CIA involved? The powers-that-be derisively dismiss such an idea, kind of the same way that the mafia hit man who shot someone shows up at the guy's funeral and tells the guy's family that he sure hopes the cops find the killer and that he gets the death penalty.

Radical Islam did not benefit from 9/11. If anything, radical Islam was driven underground and was practically bombed into oblivion because of 9/11. Saddam Hussein, who had no involvement whatsoever in the events of 9/11, nevertheless lost his political authority and finally his worthless life because 9/11 gave the United States the pretext to do what it had been wanting to do since 1990, which was to take him out for good.

Who, then, benefitted from 9/11? McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing benefitted. Dick Cheney and Halliburton benefitted. BP and Shell and Chevron benefitted. Blackwater benefitted. You and I did not benefit, however. No, we footed the bill for a drunken party that we were not invited to attend, a party where blood was guzzled from solid gold goblets by elegantly dressed vampires.

Wait just a minute, said someone up there behind black crushed velvet curtains and massive mahogany panel double doors. Hold on, now. We've got the ball rolling, no doubt about that. But let's not come across as completely and totally bat guano crazy. After all, the country has an image to uphold internationally. Hmm, how might we repair our reputation?

Enter Barack Hussein Obama, who quite honestly couldn't have come at a better time. The American brand was in the toilet, both internationally and domestically. Check this out, he's African-American. How about that, folks? First time ever! He comes from an Islamic background but he's really Christian, but maybe more agnostic at heart than Christian, truth be told. Perfect! We'll start over from scratch. We'll put the insanity of the last several years behind us and begin a new chapter. Everything will be even better than before, because this is America, folks. America is off the chain and always has been. We don't follow the same rules as the rest of the world. We make the rules. Hell, we can go totally berserk against the Islamic world and then elect a president whose father was a Muslim. Only in America could it be so. This isn't the Balkans, people. We think big in the USA. We get beyond the inconsequential details and see the big picture.

That describes in part the joy and optimism that swept through much of the country in November 2008 after Obama was elected. Sure, he got 53% of the vote, but we must not forget that his opponent took 47% of the vote. And in the last two years, a good chunk of that 47% has found a growing power and voice by resurrecting the spirit of Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose ghost now malevolently whispers to them that no Islamic cultural center should be allowed to be established within a few blocks of Ground Zero. And by the way, he adds as a parting shot, the government and the media are still infested with communists. He still hasn't let that one go after so many decades.

President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are absolutely right in pointing out that there should be no extraordinary restrictions upon where a religious center can be set up in this country. If we can accept a church or a Jewish temple next to Ground Zero, we can accept a mosque. Some innocent Muslims lost their lives because of 9/11. Why deprive their surviving family members of attending services within sight of Ground Zero?

Some say that President Obama is out of sync with the polls, which show overwhelming opposition to allowing a mosque near Ground Zero. They claim that it is a fatal mistake that will cost Democrats dearly in the congressional elections this coming November, and that it may ultimately cost Obama the presidency in 2012.

So what? The time has come to draw the line in the sand and to say that enough is enough. Thank God that Obama has enough backbone to turn a deaf ear to misguided pundits, to disregard the polls, and to stick to constitutional principles. This is not a Christian nation, as holy and blessed as Jesus Christ is. This is a democracy without an official religion, where all religionists are free to practice their beliefs as they please.

The detractors claim that Islam is a violent and intolerant religion, and that the text of the Qur'an itself testifies to this. Well then, by that standard Judaism is also a violent and intolerant religion -- just check out the Old Testament, especially the parts where polytheists are rounded up and slaughtered en masse. And although Jesus Christ was himself a peaceful and tolerant individual, let us not forget all the carnage unleashed by the leaders of Christianity throughout the centuries. If we point a finger at Islam on that account, we have four others pointing back at us.

In any case, the Qur'an prescribes protection and official recognition for the so-called People of the Book, that is, for Christians and Jews, a very important part of Islamic doctrine that has been thoroughly subverted and effectively dismissed by the treacherous scriptural interpretation of militant and thoroughly deluded Muslims.

The serious matter that we are facing here is not that of showing proper respect to Ground Zero, as important and significant a site as it unquestionably is. Rather, the issue at hand is what kind of nation we are. Do we safeguard the secular principles upon which our country was founded, or do we throw them to the winds because of Islamic extremist marionettes whose movements are ultimately controlled by the wealthy elite class that has hijacked the United States? Do we cave in to fear and to hate, thinly disguised as an insistence upon reverence for and deference to the victims of tragedy, or do we stand firm for the illuminating and progressive values that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were fully prepared to offer up their lives for?

The proposed Islamic center must be allowed to be set up next to Ground Zero as a matter of principle. To prohibit this through extralegal and unconstitutional measures would amount to a defeat for our country, polling and public opinion be damned. It would be the consummated victory of those who are ultimately the most lethal terrorists among us, those who so feverishly wave the flag and shout out their willingness to die for the country they love, the same country whose right to freedom of worship, one of the most basic and fundamental of all American rights, they have chosen to so callously disregard.

Men who are willing to take up arms and die for their homeland can be found all over the world. But where are those men who are prepared to stand firm for the key principles of a free nation? The greatness of the United States was not founded upon blood shed in battle, as important as that has been to our posterity, but rather upon our willingness to defend the principles of a truly enlightened democracy regardless of the tide of popular opinion or the gross temptations of unrestricted power and wealth.

The alternative is to turn the United States into another version of the Balkans. Can it really start by forcing one Islamic cultural center to relocate elsewhere? It absolutely can. Let us be vigilant and not let the cancer of religious exclusion infect the sanctified soil of Ground Zero and its immediate surroundings, how much less the millions of additional square miles that make up this country.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...