09/14/2010 12:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

I Said I Wouldn't Write About the Mosque

And so, I'm not...

Yet instead, I am writing about the tragedy of a tragedy: how some man and his congregation down in Florida nine years after the greatest attack on the contiguous United States could politicize a day of mourning.

Terry Jones, shame on you.

I don't care why you threatened to do it, whether you wholeheartedly believed in what you were doing or whether it was a total publicity stunt, but it is people like you that take our freedom of speech for granted. That's right, you heard me correctly. A circuitous point one might say; it is freedom of speech that gives you the right to burn the Qur'ans in protest of the location of the Ground Zero Mosque in the first place, because constitutionally you might have the right to do it (hate speech, some might argue, and potentially constitutionally restricted only if it were to result in "imminent violence" - for the courts to resolve, of course). But why, I ask? What point are you really trying to make? Is it for anything more than to create a stir and an act of provocation?

Here we are again, back to polarization. If anyone reads my postings regularly, they know I touch upon this subject often. We live in a world where 30-second visuals and sound bites trump intellectual debate and discussion.

Jon Stewart effectively helped to end the CNN show "Crossfire" a number of years ago in protest of tepid back-and-forth banter. And Terry Jones (who I hate to even put in the same paragraph as Jon Stewart, who I think is brilliant), was effectively searching for an incredibly offensive visual he could show to viewers all across America, which would then be turned into a 30-second news clip and replayed over and over again. To do what? Make a point and provoke.

And so the news networks start their back-and-forth about Terry Jones and should he or shouldn't he burn the Qur'ans and in the end, guess what? Everyone loses sight of the day itself: September 11th.

And overseas, in some countries, the reaction was the burning of our flag. How sad for us.

We live in a country where we should be proud of the freedoms we are given, including the freedom of speech. Still, when people like Terry Jones use those freedoms to provoke and anger and instill hatred, in my opinion, he abuses his right (and in fact, he potentially bordered on doing just this; as I said, had he burned the Qur'ans, this could have constituted hate speech, potentially resulting in "imminent violence").

And in the end, what are we all left with? A day of remembrance filled with back-and-forth protests and screaming and some attention-seeker down in Florida who started it all.

I'm from New York: Like many others, I remember exactly where I was when those towers fell. I was close enough to them to be scared about the whereabouts of many people I know and my cell phone couldn't reach some loved ones on that day.

Don't ever again politicize our day of unity, Terry Jones. It only comes once a year.

David Helfenbein has also posted this blog posting on his site,, under his blog, The Bean Blog.