America lives through its classic stories.
The most powerful story of the new century is of course 9/11 with its 2700 dead, the shattering of the myth of American invincibility and the realization that there were foreigners who hated us enough to trade their lives for ours.
One of our most enduring stories, on the other hand, is how the US Constitution -- the wisest political document in history, many Americans feel -- guides our nation on a constant path toward Justice.
Proponents of those two stories are now in a virulent war of words over the building of a mosque a mere two blocks from the sacred 9/11 ground.
The Constitutionalists, mostly though not all political liberals, argue that the rule of law must prevail. Many go beyond to accuse opponents of denying religious freedom or of being anti-Islam.
The mosque opponents return the fire saying this is not a constitutional issue but rather one of sensitivity to the New Yorkers, most particularly the families of 9/11 victims who lost loved ones.
As usual in the ongoing centuries-long debate about who really owns America, extremists on both sides ratchet up the emotional dialogue. Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are being particularly irrational and shameful as they exploit their anti-mosque arguments.
The one time constitutional law professor, Barack Obama, pointed out the truism that the Constitution demands freedom in religion. He might have gone further and noted that James Madison wanted a multitude of religions in America so no one could suppress the others.
Writer Mark Kurlansky notes that "New York is a city that does not plan; it creates situations and then deals with them." This is most definitely one of those cases.
Did anyone, for instance, in the group building the mosque say at an early stage, "Hey, this might be a delicate issue; We should meet with representatives of 9/11 families to tell them what we're doing before it's blown out of proportion?"
Has anyone opposing the mosque said to themselves, or anyone else, that not only is the Constitution against them, but that the mosque proponents view the building as their affirmation of being fully American? Or that Muslims throughout America are being attacked because of their religion and that in times of economic distress the bigotry is getting worse?
Instead of moderate people on each side of the issue looking at the valid points of their opposition, we have progressives saying anyone opposed to the mosque is a bigot and Gingrich telling us the Saudi Arabians wouldn't allow a church to be built in their country.
It's time to calm down the emotions and get rational. One approach to doing this would be to take up New York Archbishop Dolan's offer to mediate the problem. This situation desperately needs a mediator. America itself needs a mediator.
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