On August 22, I was in Manhattan for the counter-protest to support the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. My friend Elaine Brower gave an impassioned speech, talking about the “gentlemen’s” club by the site, and a huge Century 21 clothing store (shop, shop, shop), emphasizing the Constitutional right to freedom of religion and reminding the gathering that 15 of the hijackers who used planes as missiles on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, that the US continues to conduct business with that country, that we buy oil from Saudi Arabia, and that bikers, who roared in, joining the bigots to protest the Islamic center, most probably, filled their tanks with gas from Saudi Arabia.
Brower, whose son served three tours of military duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, exposes the hypocrisy of nationalists who make statements like the one I heard when I wandered to get a look-see at those who believe they are the REAL guardians of liberty: “Arabs are killing Americans every single day.” This agitator also held a sign, bearing the words: NO MOSQUES IN AMERICA.
I returned to Baltimore, Sunday afternoon, and wondered about our path—actually, the destination we’ve already reached. The concept of abandoning the machine is alluring. Just brake to the curb, step out, remove the plates, and get away from this mind-numbing mutation of reason.
I’m thinking of the many references to “hallowed ground.” I’m thinking about a man who said he defends religious freedom but believes that a mosque should not be allowed so close to hallowed ground.
How close is too close? How far away is it appropriate to be Muslim? These are mere ancillaries.
The central issues are racism and fear. They lead to hatred. They take us to war. They marginalize. They dehumanize.
I’ve made it clear that I disagree with the president. I’m antiwar, anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Military Industrial Complex. I abhor the fact that Obama marketed himself as the personification of hope and change, the leader who could be relied on to right the egregious wrongs of the Bush regime, when he never intended to fulfill his promises and, in fact, knew that he would continue those policies so devastating at home and abroad. This said, I would never judge him because Hussein is positioned between his first name and surname. Nor would I question his religion. Frankly, I don’t care if Obama is Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, an atheist, agnostic, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
On Monday, when I received an email from Elaine Brower that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews would interview someone from each side of the Islamic center controversy, I powered on the telly and entered Hardball to catch Matthews criticizing Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell for his Sunday Meet the Press remarks. McConnell had twice stated that when the president says he’s a Christian, he takes him at his word. Obviously, McConnell intentionally crafted a string of words to discredit Obama’s Christianity—to communicate doubt about the president’s beliefs.
Despite Matthews’ diatribe against McConnell’s deliberate undermining of Obama, Matthews failed to nail an essential. He never mentioned that religious affiliation does not matter, that religious choice is protected by the Constitution, that any president of this country could be a Muslim, could be a PASTAfarian, could worship bellybutton lint if he or she chooses.
By the time the guests appeared, the two I tuned in to watch, I was ready to tune out. Because the fourth estate is so third-rate. And because I’m fed up with the assault on truth we’ve witnessed since the 9/11 attacks, the investigation that really wasn’t, the rabid rhetoric for blood, the Islamophobia, the shock and awe, the killing of men, women, and children, and the destruction of a land’s civilization.
Our “leaders” and mainstream “journalists” stress American exceptionalism, hallowed ground, and sacred sites. And bigots spew speech that may result in violence. The New York Police Department confirmed that on Monday a Manhattan cab driver allegedly was stabbed by a passenger who asked if the driver was Muslim. This attack is disturbing given the climate of Islamophobia generated by those who oppose the Islamic center near Ground Zero.
Our own civilization is lost. The terrorists should hoist a Mission Accomplished banner.
Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.