Not so much an article, but I wanted to put out a few thoughts this evening in memory of the events of 9/11.
With all the recent furor over an [[Park51|Islamic center near Ground Zero]], many Americans hoped we could simply honor those (of all faiths regardless) who died in the tragedy that in some way defines our times. At Ground Zero itself we did just that, peaceably and respectfully. However, down the street and around the corner a protest was planned, using freedom of speech to promote intolerance — ironically an event organized by the same hate-group blogger turned media-recognized “expert” that first fabricated the controversy. (The question of who isn’t letting a crisis go to waste — or inventing one if necessary — has been answered. I will not give her the credit of her name in this article, but will address this in detail shortly.)
We still haven’t built a permanent memorial, but we’re working on it, and it may or may not be done before the Cordoba Initiative sets up their own memorial as planned, in spite of controversy. Apart from the hate-sites and few individuals behind much of the viral videos and “informative” emails akin to rumor and chain letters, the comments on blogs and news sites have been mixed, but the presence of even a few (and there were many more than a few) calling for slurs, violence, and even genocide was disturbing. People — including many Americans who consider themselves deeply patriotic — have without hesitation suspended in principle the most basic rights of man’s existence and freedom of religion, reducing their personal and political ethics to the most objectionable forms they have projected onto their perceived enemies. It is my hope that they do not represent the “real” America, but then we all represent her, for good or bad.
Meanwhile, by coincidence of calendar, Americans of Muslims faith are celebrating the breaking of the Ramadan fast with three days of [[Eid]], trying not to make too much noise for fear it will be mistaken as rejoicing over the tragedy. Protests on the other side of the world condemning all of America, for the actions or intentions of a rare few religious bigots looking to burn the Qur’an, give us a mirror to ourselves, many of us whom think all of “them” should be generalized and judged for the actions and intentions of the few, in like swiftness and lack of understanding. Our troops fear the response of people stirred up by [[Islamic_terrorism|Islamist extremism]]; those in America who even appear Arabic or Muslim wince from an ever-present fear of hate crime, thanks in part to the terrorist’s bigoted counterparts here.
But I do not think we — the average American , if there is such a thing — have become what we fear. America is a pluralistic society where widespread debate is the norm, and the extremists will continue to cancel each other out if the rest of us can keep our heads above the media wailings. Much of the hate rhetoric has been debunked (though still oft repeated), and those who refuse the extremist view of culture war — including myself — are surfacing in response. I think my heart-felt intention is not to convince the inconvincible, but not let those things contrary to freedom stand unchallenged as a matter of conscience. A personal futility? Perhaps, but those being pulled between the polarizing forces need to know they are not insane for not buying into the only two choices given them.
What is my hope? That we will not let fear (rationalized or not) dictate our lives. Even if the masses are swayed here and there, overall my hope is that America will stand in real moral courage and not forget — not just 9/11, but the lessons of the past where we did not stand firm for our brothers and sisters with equality and justice for all.
This day has been abused as the instrument of propaganda from all sides, unwittingly instigating something very bad for such people who would do so — a real dialogue about issues that can no longer be swept under the carpet. The extremists in our own culture are being uncovered for what they are. And so through this controversy, we have the opportunity to rise above the worst of us and re-set the standard of American ideals we’ve only given lip-service to all too often.