Monday, August 23, 2010

The Smell of the Kill

On the subject of the Park51 center: I was listening last week to a lot of the screeching and piling-on that passes for discussion in this country these days, and I want to say that the very first time I learned about the center was early in the year when the story was that it was going to be a mosque built on the site of the WTC. Before I began to find out more about it, I admit that my first reaction was "Hmmm. This is of doubtful wisdom." I envisioned just such a mad swarm of ignorami as has developed, and believed it probably should have been thought over with more circumspection. I also figured they knew what to expect, and would handle it to the satisfaction of all in due time.

But I certainly didn't jump to the conclusion that because all Muslims are Christian-hating terrorists, we were all going to die at the hands of suicide bombers or of shame at the desecration of this hallowed ground by the new Al-Qaeda headquarters moo mooo mooooo. Because, you know, ignorance is not a genetic defect, and it can be overcome by logic and the willingness to learn something new.

But ignorance is a given in the current atmosphere, and it's a daily struggle to wend one's way through it to some small pockets of truth. The intervening months helped me understand what exactly is being planned, and where it will stand, and what a claim the builders of the center already had to the area. And they inspired the chronic hatefiends of the country to really get their motors running. So thanks to these yahoos and their histrionics, I have jumped off the fence and into Constitutionland--a country that I grant you has been lately inhabited mostly by people with teabags hanging from their noggins, howling their misinterpretations to the Republican Moon for the Misbegotten. Maybe it's time we took them school.

Oh, who am I kidding? There's really no learnin' for these people. All they needed to know they found out from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck's dryboard, and it just feels so damned good to think like a victim while you're victimizing others (Ask Israel!) And while I greatly respect Howard Dean, and wince at some of the hyperbole otherwise decent liberals are using to erase his place at the discussion table, I think he is wrong, and Glenn Greenwald expresses best what I'm thinking now:
If Park51 ends up moving or if opponents otherwise succeed in defeating it, it will seriously bolster and validate the ugly premises at the heart of this campaign: that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11, Terrorism justifies and even compels our restricting the equals rights and access of Americans Muslims, and more broadly, the animosity and suspicions towards Muslims generally are justified, or at least deserving of respect. As Aziz Poonawalla put it: "if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective."
Give them an inch and they'll think they're rulers. At this point, the mob has taken all possibility of giving ground away from the Park51 builders, because "compromising" now is like giving off the smell of blood or cry of pain to a predator--it will give the signal that the kill is near, and every Muslim fighting for the right to worship in this country will be fair game.