It's been almost two weeks since President Barack Obama waded into the debate around the so-called mosque to be built near Ground Zero and I really tried to stay out of it because the short-term politics are a loser, but I saw people screaming about it in New York this weekend on television and it became clear that freedom loving patriots (like me) have to speak up.
The movie Thirteen Days dramatized the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Kennedy and his advisers faced with the prospect of going to war with the Soviet Union over the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba faced a critical choice. After receiving a letter that appeared to be written personally by Soviet Premier Kruschev that offered a way out of the crisis, they received a second letter taking a much harder line that appeared to be written with the guidance of Kremlin advisers that reduced the opportunity for saner heads to prevail. The Kennedy White House ultimately chose to ignore the second letter which led the American people away from a destructive precipice.
A week ago Friday, President Obama declared that:
"Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable... The writ of the Founders must endure."
The next day Mr. Obama seemed to soften his remarks in a statement that much like the second Kruschev letter reeked of off-stage direction:
"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. In this country, we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion."
"The Friday Statement" was not made at the most opportune political moment, but it was strong and worthy of the President. It would either help steer the nation away from the hysteria surrounding the building of a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan or at minimum leave a record that there were some religious freedom patriots around when this question was debated. Although the second statement does not technically differ from "The Friday Statement" its tone and timing gave a little too much aid and comfort to the hysterics.
I'm assuming "The Friday Statement" reflected the President's true feelings on the matter and since we sit at another destructive precipice where we must choose to either follow the constitution or leave decisions of religious freedom on private property up to our feelings, I decided to emulate the example of the Kennedy White House. I'm just going to ignore the second statement.
The more I learn about the mosque controversy the more it is clear it is a phony debate. (Witness Laura Ingraham taking both sides of it) There is no plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero. The building in discussion would be two blocks from the sacred ground of the New York 9-11 attacks and in the same radius as a couple of strip bars and more than a few newspaper stands selling porno magazines. In fact, the organizers want to create a community center where Muslim women can swim without coverings; families can hold celebrations and yes even pray. There would be no dome and no minarets.
Besides, lumping all Muslims in with violent terrorists who exploit Islam for their own political purposes is juvenile thinking. As a Christian, I repudiated the campus militants back in college who wanted to tar the whole Christian faith with the broad brush of racism because of its use by slave trading Europeans to dehumanize my African ancestors before carting them off to power the economic fortunes of New World settlers in the American Promised Land.
Newt Gingrich, former Congressman from Georgia, one of the states where members of that Christian terrorist sect known as the Ku Klux Klan regularly burned crosses before lynching people, equates building this center with putting a Swastika next to the Holocaust Memorial. Inconveniently for him, the Muslims who are planning this center do so with the help of leaders of a nearby Jewish Community Center. I can't believe that the bomb-throwers in Al Qaeda find that collaboration kosher.
Conservatives, who claim to be Constitutional purists, and Tea Party devotees who repeatedly claim to be the true guardians and followers of "the document," should take heart at a President following the Constitution so closely. They should follow my lead. Let's just ignore the second statement from the President and stand up for freedom.