In service to the 24-hour news cycle, the latest hullabaloo is over the proposed building of a mosque in New York City just a few blocks away from where the Twin Towers used to stand. There has been a large, vehement public outcry that the location is too close to Ground Zero and that it disparages the hallowed ground of the where the Towers used to stand and the memories of the people who died on 9/11. I fail to see the big deal in all of this. In fact, I find it rather disgusting that it is becoming such a hotly divisive issue that people are using to exploit for their own political gain.
This country is founded on certain principles and inalienable rights. One of those is religious freedom. President Obama was correct in stating this and reaffirming this. There are plenty of things going on in the world to get righteously outraged about, but this is not one of them. How close is too close for a mosque being built near Ground Zero? What is a comfortable, acceptable distance for those who oppose this mosque being built on private property?
As a conservative who feels abandoned by the party he once proudly supported, one of the things that I have noticed in the last few years in the Republican Party is a severe lack of nuance in the way Republicans look at the world around us. Its leaders and most vocal adherents have painted everything in a stark black and white contrast that has only deepened the culture wars that have engulfed this country. We need to remember that it is not the religion of Islam that took over planes and flew them into building on September 11, 2002. It is not the religion of Islam that we are at war with in Afghanistan and Iraq. The people who inflicted those horrors visited upon us were radicalized extremists of a religion.
If you were to make a Venn Diagram of Islam and terrorists, there would certainly be some overlap. But do you know who else would overlap into the terrorist circle? Christianity, American citizens, basically any generic group of people you could think of, because terrorists come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. If we continue to lump all the whole of Islam with the nut jobs in their ranks who make up a fraction of their number, then we reinforce the ugly stereotypes that the terrorists insist is true about us. That we think they are all the same. That we are actually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan because we are fighting Islam.
I realize that it can be hard to set aside feelings of anger and hurt that can crop up for some people because of what happened to them and their families on 9/11. The entire country was impacted by that day and it left an indelible mark on our collective psyche. But it is precisely because it is hard that we must do it. We must always embrace our Constitution and promote the constitutional rights of everyone in this country, even when it may feel like the hardest thing and what we least want to do. We should not settle for allowing these important matters to become boilerplate fodder that will be politicized and exploited and finessed to fit a 30 second campaign ad.