Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on the "Ground Zero" Mosque..

First, a few things to get out of the way...
  1. It is clear the Park51 developers have the right to build the mosque.
  2. I am ashamed that some have tried to use various levers of government to prevent it.
  3. The manner in which politicians have ginned up outrage over this is shameful, and evidence of their general backruptcy of productive ideas.
  4. I have found the appeals to how welcoming countries like Saudi Arabia are to Christian churches particularly unfortunate.  The standard for the United States in embracing religious freedom is not Saudi Arabia, and I weep for the day when it is, and anyone who loves this country should seriously consider the implications of using Islamic theocracies as a measuring stick for our actions.
  5. My preferred option would for the mosque to be built with little more attention paid to it.  But I'm not sure that's possible.

The consensus of elite opinions seems to be that all arguments against the mosque ultimately come down to bigotry.  The challenge is put down for those opposed, or those with any sympathy to those opposed, to articulate and argument against it that is not dependent on bigotry or collective guilt.  If not, then they have exposed the whole enterprise as bigoted and unworthy of consideration.   Some may be offended, but root of that offense is bigotry, which need not be respected.

Bill McClellan (with whom I agree on his distaste for the Carnahan and Blunt dynasties here in Missouri) captured the gist of this thinking in Sunday's column:

Frankly, I have little sympathy for the politicians who say they understand that the Muslims have a constitutional right to build a center — or even a mosque — but don't think they should. Or the president, who acknowledges that Muslims have the right to build a center — or even a mosque — but won't say whether he supports the building of such.
If they have the right, they have the right. Period. Otherwise, what good is a right?
It's as if you were to tell gun owners that you acknowledge their right to own guns, but you think they should voluntarily disarm. 
First, I think this neatly captures the attitude most gun control types have toward gun owners, though I'm not sure I'd vouch for the part where they acknowledge their right to own guns.  They most certainly do not approve of gun ownership, do not welcome guns in a variety of settings, don't wast to see non gun owners acquire guns, and wish those who do own guns would get rid of them.  There are places where bearing arms is not just socially proscribed, but also legally banned.  And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  

Last year, a pro-life person murdered Dr. George Tiller, who was notorious for performing late term abortions, outside his church in Wichita.  This was the act of a single actor, and the first example of lethal pro-life violence in a number of years, though some claim that the rhetoric of the mainstream pro-life movement equating abortion with murder inspires such violence.

In my opinion, and I suspect in the opinion of most, it would be wise for the pro-life movement to tone down its activities in the Wichita area.  It would not be a good idea to, for example, construct a monument to the victims of violence, both born and unborn, right across from his gravesite or outside the church where he was murdered.  Were the pro-life movement to publicly contemplate such a project, I would expect it to be subject to withering criticism, both from within and from the outside.

I can't articulate a reason for this that doesn't rest on heaping the guilt for this act of a single person on an entire movement that is by and large peaceful.  But, as before, I'm OK with that.  There should be some incentive for large movements to police its more extreme elements.  I don't want a pro-life movement that goes around unnecessarily provoking people.  Heck, we weren't sure if we should allow a pro-life ad to air during the Super Bowl.

It is here where some will quibble with whether my analogy presents a precise analogy with the Cordoba Project controversy.  The mosque is two blocks away, in an old Burlington Coat Factory, almost ten years after 9/11.  And so on.  That misses the point.  The assertion is that if one cannot articulate a non-bigoted argument against an exercise of religious freedom, then that indicates that the opposition is based on bigotry.  It is my opinion that opposition to a monument to the unborn next to Dr. Tiller's gravesite would be proper, and I suspect most would agree.  Given that, we have accepted that in some cases, a group faces some social restrictions on its behavior as a result of the actions of a violent faction.  Now we're just haggling over the price.

It may be the case that the "price" in this case is one we should be willing to pay for the Cordoba Project, and not one we should be willing to pay for the pro-life memorial.  But making such and argument would involve actually engaging those opposed, and it's a lot more fun to just dismiss them as bigots.
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