Lots of sober commentary has already been devoted to the Muslim community center planned for the Ground Zero neighborhood in Manhattan, and specifically to the fake outrage directed against the project. I won't add much more, but, honestly, I'm sad and embarrassed and more than a little angry. From my vantage point in Eastern Europe (Klaipeda, Lithuania, at the moment), we Americans end up looking like a bunch of crybabies. The anti-community center activists cite the feelings of 9/11 victims (treated as a monolithic block, of course) while completely ignoring the feelings of a planetful of Muslim observers, not to mention anyone who admires American pluralism, or cherishes freedom of religion, the U.S. Bill of Rights, or other values that used to be considered worth dying for.
On the bus between Riga and Klaipeda I watched with disbelief a recorded NBC Nightly News broadcast. Reporting on the second day of President Obama's two successive days of comments on the community center, Mike Viqueira could not simply convey what the president said, but had to crank up the drama; whereas the president had commented accurately on his previous day's comments, the NBC correspondent delivered the echo-chamber analysis: "The president appeared to backtrack...." I had interpreted the second-day comment as an even more emphatic defense of First Amendment rights. Obama simply, and correctly, said that he had never specifically advocated that location, just the right to use it.
A few moments later in the broadcast, NBC's political commentator John Harwood, responding to the anchor's question about whether Obama's follow-up represented "damage control," said, "Certainly there's no political upside for the president in this...." There's no "political upside" in a public defense of a religion's right to build its facilities in any legal location?? CERTAINLY?
There is absolutely no political or civic "upside" in allowing the campaign of fake outrage to subvert due process and prevent the building of the community center. But it would be consistent with a pattern that was described in Tom Engelhardt's important book, The End of Victory Culture, a pattern embedded in American history that encourages us Americans to see ourselves as victims of ambush who are thereby entitled to strike out at the bad guys with righteous retribution--with violence, either rhetorical or actual.
My suggested guidelines for post-9/11 mental health:
1. Americans: grieve for those who died on 9/11/2001, including the dozens of Muslims who died. Arrange for a dignified and respectful monument. Your grief deserves respect but does not trump the the rights of others, nor should it become the center of a new cult of national self-pity.
2. Do you desire justice for the 9/11 culprits? Then find the guilty and their organization. Do not seek emotional satisfaction by indulging in guilt by association. Punishment without due process is not the American way.
3. Don't tell other people what their wisest course of action would be. Mind your own wisdom for a change.
4. Do you imagine that you are in a confrontation with another religious community? Then fight fair. Compare your community's best with their community's best. (I know, it's a lot more fun to compare your best with their worst, and many of your own most unsavory allies will cheer you on. But consider that your so-called enemies can play that exact same game, and in the ensuing struggle you will sabotage your own side's attractiveness, its moral authority, even its global outreach. Speaking for myself and many other Christians serving cross-culturally, thanks a lot!)
5. If you don't want to go to a Muslim-sponsored cultural center in Lower Manhattan, feel free to go somewhere else. As for myself, I look forward to visiting.
A "roundtable discussion" of the Muslim cultural center controversy. '...There isn’t such a thing as the sensitivities of 9/11 families. There are a lot of different 9/11 families, and there are not only 9/11 families who lost directly people, but there are 9/11 families who were forced out of their homes for years in the neighborhood. So, what do we mean by the "the feelings of 9/11 families"? These are abstractions used to actually stoke fear in the country.'
More on the controversy: look for some interesting reality checks revealing its artificiality in this article by the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.
The "fear tax."
On a subject very close to my heart: "In search of a new framework for evangelism and mission." Teaser: 'Because of our theology and practice the Quaker perspective on mission has always been an alternative response to the more general "winning souls mentality" it is far more holistic and operates out of a conviction that God is already at work in our world, it is our job as the church not to bring God to the heathens but to find where God is already at work and participate in that work, call that work out, name it, and support it.'
New England Yearly Meeting's ends its jubilee-year sessions with a minute of sending forth/commission.
"On sacred ground"--'As the mother tenderly helped her daughter out of the stroller, my eye fell for the first time on the handwritten cardboard sign that the girl had been carrying. “I miss my dad,” it read. “He was deported.”'
"Dancing in the streets" of Moscow?
The LOLcat Bible.
Don't need to read politics into this song...unless you insist :))) "Nobody's Fault But Mine."