Tuesday, August 17, 2010

on freedom and 'hallowed ground'

i don't feel like writing about the muslim community center that is being inaccurately called a 'mosque.' i'm a fan of accuracy. i hate bigotry.  i hate stating the obvious.  it's uninteresting, and unchallenging.  but not arguing against an injustice, even when others are doing so and doing it well, seems to be some sort of complicity with the injustice.

so i'll try  to echo only breifly what so many other liberals, leftists, humanists, etc. are saying. my first echo is this: freedom of religion means freedom of religion. it doesn't mean, we have freedom of religion but your religion is bad so please shut up and go away. echo number 2 is that 2 blocks away from ground zero is not ground zero.  echo number 3 is, muslims were killed in the attacks on the world trade center,  which means that muslims lost loved ones, which means that muslims overall are unlikely to think the attack was good. and it also means that the tragedy 'belongs' to all americans; hence it belongs as much to muslim americans as to christian, jewish, hindu, buddhist, atheist, and any other americans.  so much for the echo.

so what do i have to add?  that i cringe when people use the expression 'hallowed ground' to describe ground zero. it's vague, it's sentimental, it's inaccurate.  ground zero is the site of an horrific mass murder.  its victims included a range of people, and unless the only thing happening there on 9/11 was a convocation of saints, that range very likely included good people and not so good people, heroes and cowards and villains. PEOPLE were murdered. humans. their deaths don't make them holy; they make them dead. they make them victims. all of them.  'hallowed ground' sounds cruelly dehumanizing, like a bad painting of gentle saints wafting up to heaven.   maybe they are in heaven; i certainly hope so.  but they still deserve to be remembered as once-living humans. they deserve better than being morphed into memory as something sacred and unreal.

and they deserve not to be used as instruments of bigotry.  islam is a religion. believe it, don't believe it. love it; hate it.  maybe even try to learn about it, since it has become such a visible part of american life. but as long as we can allow churches and synogogues and other houses of worship or associations of religious believers to be built anywhere, we cannot allow anything less to muslims.  nor should muslims be asked to politely make themselves invisible in lower manhattan, as though, simply by being muslims, they should feel guilty about 9/11.  they shouldn't.  and the rest of us should damn well understand that.

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