“Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed out to sea?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times can man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend, is blowin in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” — Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind”
Who are we? One of the things I’ve always loved about being an American was our insistence on doing the right thing, on adhering to our principals of being the country that, most of the time, walked the talk, but somewhere along the line our talk got loaded up and tried to walk the walk with one too many of the hard stuff running through our veins. Instead of walking that straight line, we sort of stumble around these days from side to side.
Like the mosque being built near the site of the World Trade Center. Two blocks away, 600 feet from Ground Zero to be exact, on a lot that currently houses a 1850s Italianate building damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The nation is flat-out up in arms. “How dare they!” the cry goes out across the land.
How dare they what?
“How dare they build a mosque so close to the site where those terrible brown men in turbans and rags flew planes into the World Trade Center and killed so many Americans!”
How dare they indeed. How dare a moderate Muslim leader do exactly what this country has been begging moderate Muslims to do – stand up against the fanatical wing of their faith and take a stand.
At the center of all this controversy is the Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, accused of all manners of nefarious dealings. Most of the accusations leveled at the man stem from his statements linking American foreign policy to the horrendous crimes of 9/11.
It’s a simple law of physics really – for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. We, as Americans, cannot afford to be so blind as to think that our actions on the world stage take place in a vacuum. That there are repercussions for the things that we, as a country, do and there are outcomes — good, bad, foreseen, unforeseen, intended, and unintended. To do anything else is to be the proverbial ostrich that sticks its head in the sand and pretends that everything around them is just fine.
Is this to say that anyone of the more than 3,000 people who perished that day deserved any of the horrors committed against them? Or is this some sort of nod to the so-called “Blame America First” crowd? Absolutely not, and anyone who would suggest otherwise is cow towing and catering to the worst kind of fear-mongering there is today.
No, we as a nation should be behind this group of Muslims that want to build a place of worship that, beyond being a place of worship for Muslims, is led by a man who has fostered peace and understanding between the religions.
We need to stand at that sight, arms locked with our fellow citizens of all faiths, and challenge the extremists who brought their brand of hate to our country. “Here we are,” we should scream. “Our way accepts all. Your way kills the innocent. Our way draws a line of distinction between extremists and those of moderation who we can all work with to live together in harmony. Your way accepts only those who believe as you and destroys the rest. Ours is a culture of peace, respect, and understanding. Yours is a culture of fire and death.”
Because in the end, we are better than the terrorists, the extremes of a religion who flew those planes on that fateful day. We have to walk the walk. Freedom of religion means all religion.