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I Support the Park 51 Project

I pretty much stay out of political discussions. The hard part, for me, is that I can usually argue both sides of any disagreement. I don't get alienated until the extreme left or extreme right get involved, and once they are involved, things are too ugly for my non-confrontational brain. Even worse, the extremes of either side don't appreciate it much when you can argue both sides. It seems that they think there is only one correct way of doing pretty much anything. Frankly, that's just plain not true.

In my quest to be as annoying when it comes to political discussions as possible (really, people HATE it when you can understand where the opposition is coming from), I spent some time researching the Park 51 proposal. You may have heard it referred to as the "Ground Zero Mosque," but that's one of those things where there is no arguing that there are two sides. It is not a "Mosque" any more than a YMCA is a church (we all remember that "YMCA" stands for "Young Men's Christian Association," right?). It's also not located at Ground Zero. I'm vaguely familiar with the area as the company I work for is working at Ground Zero. I've been there. I can safely say that you can't see Ground Zero from where Park 51 is to be built, nor vice versa.

Anyway, through all of my reading and such, I happened to come across an interesting site that showed photos of various things that are approximately the same distance from Ground Zero as the Park 51 project. I tweeted the link because I found it confusing that some of the opponents of the proposal say that Park 51 is being built on "hallowed ground." Meanwhile, there are McDonald's and slimy street vendors and even strip clubs closer to the site than the proposed community center. There is no way you can convince me that a strip club is more respectful of the horrible things that happened on September 11th than a community center would be.  You just can't.

A little while after I tweeted the link, I got a reply:

Honestly, I was confused. Last time I checked, not all Muslims are terrorists, any more than all Catholics are (Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic). Really, saying that all Muslims support jihad is even more ridiculous than saying that mommy bloggers are all money-grubbing whores who ignore their children all the time. So, I replied, "That's a lot of misdirected hate you have right there. Maybe you should try reading about what is really being built and by whom." See also: it's not a Mosque and it's not terrorists who are trying to build it.

Then I went to a meeting. When I returned a few hours later, I found a lot of replies.

I'd call that one, "valid." The person who wrote it has personal ties to the situation and is, understandably, emotional. All validity was lost with the next one, though:

Really? REALLY? Change that statement to include any ethnic group, any religion, anything at all. It is a statement of hate. It is a statement born of xenophobia. It's his (or her, frankly I don't know for certain since people can pretend to be whatever they want to be online) right to say that, absolutely. However, if you are willing to defend his (or her) right to free speech, then you also have to respect the rights of fellow Americans to practice whatever religion they may choose.

He continued on.

Remember, I wasn't near a computer while this tirade went on, so I wasn't doing anything to encourage or discourage it. I do, however, take issue with the statement that some countries should be turned into parking lots. Hating people simply because of where they live is absolutely not acceptable. Ever. Your address does not define you as a person.

(For what it's worth, the links pointed to videos posted to YouTube by an extremely xenophobic individual who calmly lays out a message of absolute madness.)

There was more:

There is a lot wrong with every single one of those tweets, but the first thing that came to mind is that we take our shoes off at the airport because of a (somewhat ridiculous, I think) reaction to the Shoe Bomber. His name was Richard Reid and he was a British citizen. Guess we should add Great Britain to the parking lot list because Reid was anti-white long before he ever stepped foot out of the country.

I blacked out the name of the Tweeter who said the horrible things because he later deleted every single one of his tweets. It seems that maybe he has a tiny corner of his brain that realizes it's not OK to hate people merely because of a label. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, unfortunately for him, Tweetdeck had already grabbed the tweets and I spent the night staring at them, willing the world of Twitter to @ me so they would go away as they were knocked further and further into my twitter history.

They didn't go away, though. And neither has the hate. Whether it's hate for Muslims or Christians, blacks or whites, Hispanics or Russians, women or men, none of it is OK.

All Americans are free to form an opinion, but at least do it without letting your personal hatred for anyone who isn't like you get in the way.

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Reader Comments (28)

I love you for posting this. I had and/or avoided some unfortunate conversations that were started in an attempt to bait me so far this week. I could have read one from BlogHer out loud to said baiter and it wouldn't have mattered. It rarely matters in these cases.

Thank you for writing this post. Big hugs across the way.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

Sadly the loudest people are usually not the smartest.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTwinMamaTeb

I hit this last week in my blog. It's all just so disappointing that this is where we are, as a country. One minute half the country wants to enshrine the Constitution into carved steel, the next they want to rewrite the 1st and 14th amendments.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluzdude

I am sorry you had to endure his ranting tweets. I feel so sad that there is such hate in our wonderful world. Thanks for posting.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

I hit this same attitude in the weeks following 9/11. It was simply unacceptable for me to say "it's horrible and I hate it and it was wrong but I've lived in a Muslim country and this is not their way." I lost friends because of it. I got followed around the internet having invective thrown at me at every opportunity. Simply because I refused to paint every single Muslim person with the same narrow brush.

It seems like people want to forget about the atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity. Has no one ever heard of the Crusades? Conversion by way of the sword! That worked out fabulously. In modern times, we have people blowing up abortion clinics because they believe abortion is murder and those who perform it to be murderers. They are no better than the men who flew planes into buildings to kill innocent people.

People want freedom of religion and freedom of speech as long as it's THEIR religion and THEIR speech that's being protected. The second they have to be subjected to someone else's point of view that they don't agree with, it's not OK to practice tolerance.

Turning a few Muslim nations into parking lots will not change a single thing. Islam is the single largest religion on the planet - we need to learn to get along with one another, to treat each other with tolerance and goodwill, to apply the Golden Rule in all dealings with one another or the kind of hatred that spawned 9/11 will only continue.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermattieflap

I love that you posted this. I know you research things like this, and I agree with you. I checked your links. I see what you see.

Small minds = big problems.

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpghrugbyangel

This is just one more reason why I love you :)

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErinPatricia

Thank you for posting this. It's kind of a sad reflection on where society has moved towards when facts are losing their place in any debate. I also tend to be able to argue both sides and work to understand all aspects of pretty much each argument for or against something -- one of the hazards of being a lawyer, I guess. I'm not sure if it's laziness or stupidity, but it seems to me that some folks rarely want to take the time to look into issues for themselves and just faithfully regurgitate the rhetoric of the talking heads.

9/11 touched all of us in so many different ways. People of all faiths, including Muslims, died when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville. People of all faiths died trying to rescue those trapped in the buildings before and after they fell.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEx-Pat Pittsburgh Girl

I can't be reasonable when it comes to close mindedness. but it's really, seriously good to know that there is some sanity left in the US. There are times when I miss America so badly, but then I see the kind of garbage being spewed over this community center and I'm quite literally frightened of my own country.
As for the guy above who feels that it's okay to plow over millions of innocent people in the nale of his own personal crusade against Muslim countries? Well, I respect your blog enough to not say how I truly feel about him and his bigotry. But dude needs to change his twitterpic. Seriously, he's rockin' the Han Solo do and that went out circa 1987. Not a mullet, but nearly there.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCalliope

Thank you for posting this. It disgusts me that people would rather spew hate and ignorance than do the kind of research you've done.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermamaphan

I have been so frustrated by this whole Ground Zero Mosque bullshit. ESPECIALLY on facebook - woo the freaks come out over there. I just don't understand how the people who keep crying about our freedom are the ones that want to take it away (for some). This whole twitter thing actually made me shut down twitter for a while that day because it made me sick.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

It amazes me how many people will yell so loud to make sure you hear their said, and they only believe they are right, and never educate themselves on what it is they're even talking about. Thank you for doing your homework first, for digging to see what it is people are talking about. That's what makes you awesome.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J.

What is happening in this country these days is really sad and frightening to me. What makes it even worse is that I believe that a lot of what's going on stems from the fact that people can't handle that we have elected an African-American president and they are freaking out and need someone to hate. I just read a fantastic article that talks about the media's role in all this. I wish it were required reading for everybody. I'm going to link it here, if you don't mind, in case anybody wants to check it out. It's called The United States of Hysteria.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Queen

Right on. I don't know why people can't fathom that the US was founded on the rights of religious freedom by those who were persecuted for their religion. Our founding fathers came over here so everyone could practice whatever religion they wanted. (True story).
If you believe in America, you have to believe that. These haters need to think and say this out loud "I may not agree with your religion, but you have every right to practice it here in America. That is why we were founded"
The sad thing is these 'haters' consider themselves real Americans, and those of us that tolerate/support others beliefs are not true Americans. Sometime there is no reasoning with them.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTTG

I am always happy to ready a sane voice on such political issues. Too many politicians are getting involved to try and win votes in the upcoming election.

I enjoyed the link you posted of other things approximately the same distance from ground zero as this project, and have one question to those who feel that this location is too close, or as some have said, located on "sacred ground": IF two blocks is too close, where does the line end...Lower Manhattan, Manhattan, NYC? I have read too many people who say that they have no problems with the project, but rather with the location of the project.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpghrugbymike

Well, you know I posted on this same topic yesterday and overall, I would say 99% of my comments and emails were of support and freedom and love.

Of course there were the 1% who were not.

But I have faith that the 99% will speak loud enough to drown out the 1%.

At least I can hope.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndreAnna

@AndreAnna--I feel like those of us who try to understand all sides and who react using common sense have been too quiet for the past few years. We're letting the irrational, emotion-fueled people take control of the conversations and then remaining silent because we don't want to "stir the pot." I think it's time we grab a spoon and start stirring.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle (~~burghbaby~~)

I'm so glad you wrote this post. I live in a southern state that is seemingly filled with narrow minded people who can't seem to seperate the fact that one group of extremists does not mean an entire religion is evil. Recently a local politician spoke to a high school at an assembly. He made all sorts of scathing remarks about Islam and this mosque during his question and answer period. The students even politely challenged his narrow mindedness during the assembly and he defended himself to the last. I thought it was tragic that those kids sat there and heard all of his rants and hate. Hopefully there are more students like the ones who were able to challenge him and hate won't begin to spread among them. You're right we need more people to speak up and be the voice of reason and not the voice of hate.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

THANK YOU!! May I share this post on my Facebook? I come from a LONG line of uneducated fundamentalist Christians whom I have tried to share so many of those very same thoughts. They are not open to anything other than what their Pastor or the "Moral Majority" types tell them to believe. If only they would educate themselves and try to follow The Word as God wants.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBette's Bags

The only thing I'll add (for now) is that I just don't understand why the opponents of the project are so afraid of it.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy T

Wow. Your post is enlightening and should, hopefully, educate those who don't know the real facts surrounding the project. And - yeah - the "hate language" in response to your tweets was obviously driven by some misdirected rage and fear (and I'm sorry for the loss that people experienced - obviously). I mean... all Catholics don't support the IRA in Belfast, despite the fact that they, at one time, professed to act on their behalf - um - with bombings, etc. The intolerance regarding Muslims and their belief system just snowballs when people don't know the real facts.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSherri

I couldnt agree with you more. I also researched this due to all the hoopla surrounding it and if people would just learn to READ a little bit than the headlines the world would be a much better place.

I do take much warm fuzzies knowing that there are so many who do think and do form opinions based on what theyve learned as opposed to being reactionary. There may be hope for us yet!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermindymin

I admire you for speaking out about this topic. Count me among those who try to understand opposing points of view! However, lately I am so disillusioned by the very type of closed-mindedness that you illustrate here, that I just turn away from the whole thing altogether. I know that is not really benefiting anyone, but I find that getting involved sends me so deep into a funk that I can't recover without help. I wish I was as brave as I was 10-15 years ago, but the longer I watch the "America Show" the more I want to just shut it off. Frankly, it terrifies me...because I see the same kind of crazy irrationality in these "haters" that I do in people like Timothy McVeigh and the men who flew the planes into the towers. Its really hard to put yourself out in front of that particular freight train. But YOU did it! You are so right that people with common sense need to break the silence... Your words here are etched into my memory and I will try to drum up the courage to be an intelligent voice of reason.

That said, I'm with you on this one.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScared Silent

Sing it, sister. Differing opinions are okay. Differing political ideals are okay. But hate and disrespect and ignornance? Never, ever okay. It's the hatred and utter lack of empathy that's ruining this country, not difference.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA

What a great post. I don't understand why people don't get that there is a difference between members of a religion and the extremists within that religion. For instance, not all Christians are Fred Phelps. Not all Mormons are polygamists who take advantage of the system and mistreat women and children. Not all Muslims are terrorists. It's like people forget to use their brains.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

Don't even get me going on this one. It makes my head explode. I don't know why people think they can justify hatred toward a particular group.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

Michelle, I had an immense amount of respect before I met you. Then I met you and I was like "holy crap. This chick is awesome. Too bad I'm being mad awkward and spastic!" and then you go and post this? You rock. Seriously. You are articulate, calm, smart and rational. And for that, I thank you. Especially as a New Yorker.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

I completely 100% agree with your post. I cannot believe that people are getting so worked up about it for one thing.The other this is that the Muslim members of the the community were attacked on 9/11 just as all Americans were. We need to learn to embrace diversity instead of building unnecessary walls.

September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Elizabeth
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