I’m going to chime in on this ground zero mosque issue that everyone is raving about, though I should admit that there are plenty of factors to consider, which I may not see.
The builders say it’s intended to promote understanding and cooperation. The opposition says it’s an offensive gesture, and quite possibly a national defense issue. The supporters say everyone has a right to practice religion and the God-and-Guns people need to stop being chauvinists. This week the fight went political, with seemingly every politician having to clarify their stance. The president’s support of the project drew wide criticism, and you would think that the entire upcoming election is going to hinge on whether or not someone is with Obama on this.
Let me say right away: this is not a political issue. The Federal Government either can or cannot stop a private group from building on private land, for purposes of entirely legal activity, and the answer is not equivocal. Thankfully, the Constitution strictly prohibits the government from getting involved, though one could argue that local officials may have more leverage. With that said, there is really no reason for federal politicians to take a stance on whether this should be “allowed” or not.
If the concern is on national security grounds, the solution is to monitor the activities there and only take action when it is clear that illegal activity is taking place. Arguments against the project on grounds of how offensive it is, or how happy it makes muslim extremists, are simply not valid enough for the Federal Government to step in. How often have we complained that “offense” is not a criminal activity? Let’s not employ a double-standard here. Our national values dictate that within our borders, you are free to be a prideful and offensive jerk.
Now, this doesn’t mean I support it. They are free to build it, but I am free to say that, yes, it is offensive, and dumb, and possibly even dangerous. With the backers stubbornly resisting any and all efforts to appease the weight of the conflict, I have little reason to be confident in their claims that they are doing this for the sake of unity and cooperation. And if not, what are they building it for? Any claims about the purpose of this building are speculative, and though its existence at ground zero may offend some of our friends and satisfy some of our enemies, speculation is not enough to close it down.
One facet of this debate is over whether or not the building is at ground zero at all. That depends on your definition. No, it is not being constructed in the empty footprint of the WTC towers. But, as Hugh Hewett noted on his radio show earlier this week, any spot where plane and body parts landed should be considered hallowed ground. Still, the fact that this attack occurred in the middle of lower Manhattan means that we’re just going to have to get used to the idea that life and commerce will go on. Here in Texas, hundreds of men were killed fighting for our independence at the Alamo. Today, the iconic memorial sits adjacent to Jackalope Joe’s and the Out West Giftshop. And everywhere you look there are Mexican restaurants and paraphernalia.
I understand the discomfort, and I know that some people will be emotionally hurt by this. But I am not one that believes emotional distress is a crime. Muslim extremists may view this as a victory, and there may be consequences that we cannot see, but I am also not one who thinks speculation and assumptions are enough evidence to stamp out the First Amendment.
I know that I break with many conservative voices on this, but it is important that our facts are accurate and unexaggerated, and our principles are consistent. You don’t win a battle of ideas by changing them for political expediency. Many Republicans are using this as a wedge issue to stir up trouble with Democrats before an important election. And though I applaud just about any attempt to get the current leadership out of Congress, we should be careful not to get so excited that we lose track of our ideals.