9/11 Nine Years On

Well it seems we’ve managed to avoid a Koran burning, but we still had Christians ripping pages out of the Koran at the White House to protest “the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion”—what a shame these hypocrites don’t give the outrageous violence and intolerance in their own Bible the same scrutiny. The huge controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which will actually be two blocks away and will be more of a Muslim community centre than what most people think of as a mosque) has only been inflamed by this year’s anniversary of September 11, however.

My own views on this issue are expressed very well by the video above—opposing this mosque is tantamount to equating all Muslims with Islamic extremist terrorists, which is the same as equating all Christians with Christian extremist terrorists. As critical as I am of the extreme violence and intolerance written into the both the Koran and the Bible, it is not reflective of how most Muslims practice their religion, just as it isn’t reflective of how most Christians practice theirs. And while it may seem strange for an outspoken atheist to preach religious tolerance, the fact of the matter is, without freedom of religion, there wouldn’t be freedom of no religion. Freedom of religion is one of the key things that makes us better than the terrorists—to deny this only brings us down to their level.

Having said that though, I can sympathise with Obama’s apparent attempt to have it both ways on this issue. I, like him, absolutely support their legal and constitutional right to build this mosque at this site. On the other hand though, it will be the subject of ongoing controversy, and will no doubt be the target of Christian extremist terrorism, which could have repercussions for the whole world. So I can also sympathise with Obama’s implication that building a mosque at this site may not be wise, and that the backers of this project should really consider building it elsewhere—for their own sake as much as (indeed more than) anybody else’s.

As they always do with this sort of issue, the conservatives have cynically tried to use it as a wedge against Obama, and have shamelessly tried to fan the flames by openly speaking out against this mosque with some very inflammatory language. This is in spite of their stated devotion (and that of their supporters) to the US constitution—which absolutely protects the right of Muslims to build a mosque at this site. Of course, this is really the same as their supposed devotion to freedom of speech—the conservatives only want freedom of speech and religion for themselves, and not for anybody else. I fear Obama could lose his presidency over what should really be a non-issue, just as the labour party very nearly just lost power in Australia, in part because of the complete non-issue of “boat people”. I will have more to say on the recent Australian election in my next post.

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Many times these days, I am embarrassed by my countrymen. We now have a state with a law allowing police to ask people for papers – something I thought specifically forbidden by the Constitution. And a border being patrolled by Predator drones (sans weaponry – or so we’re told). Religious books being burned. People attacked because of their ethnicity. And a significant fraction of the country seems unaware or even accepting of this.

Very sad times, indeed.

  
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“Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.” – Heinrich Heine

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last Saturday we witnessed the 9th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the day terrorists flew two jumbo jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, resulting in the death of nearly 3,000 people. As if this weren’t bad enough, it also marked the beginning of a concerted campaign by fringe elements of the political right to exploit fear and ignorance among the general populace and hijack the notion of patriotism so that anyone who does not conform to their view of the world becomes instantly “un-American.” This has resulted in a poisoning of political debate in this country not witnessed since the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist witch-hunts.
As we all know by now, there are plans to turn an abandoned warehouse and retail outlet six blocks away from Ground Zero, where the towers once stood, into a community information center and a mosque. The usual gang of idiots on the right – including, but not limited to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and John Boehner – have exploited this to their political advantage, stirring up public outrage against Islam and all Muslims and misleading the public into believing that the planned community center and mosque is destined to be built on the site of Ground Zero itself, which is false and they know it. The most extreme example of this whipping-up of public anger, outrage and Islamophobia is the call of an extremist so-called Christian preacher in Florida named Terry Jones to “commemorate” 9/11 by public burning of the Koran. It is difficult to tell at this point if Jones is really serious about this or just trying to make himself famous by creating an instantly polarizing high media profile, much like his former high school classmate Rush Limbaugh.
What is clear is the desire of the political right to inflame public opinion by conflating the right of Muslims to pray in peace in lower Manhattan with the so-called “free speech” rights of Terry Jones to promote deliberately provocative public demonstrations. A momentary application of common sense demonstrates that this fails on both counts.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” –
First Amendment, U. S. Constitution

Despite the contentions of many people who clearly have not studied the history of the founding of this republic, the United States is not a “Christian nation,” founded by Christians upon Christian principles. If anything, the larger number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the U. S. Constitution were Freemasons, and both documents reflect Masonic, rather than Christian principles. In fact, it’s clear from the writings of many of the founders, like Jefferson, Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton for example, that they firmly believed in the concept of the separation of Church and state and thought nothing but mischief could come from mixing the two. There is no existing law in the United States or in the State or the City of New York which prevents or should prevent New York’s Muslims from building a community center or a mosque within six blocks of the former site of the World Trade Center. Nor should there be, if we truly believe in our First principles. The First Amendment clearly protects the right of the individual to believe and practice whatever faith he chooses. The “proximity” issue is a red herring. Six city blocks in New York City is a distance greater than a half a mile. So how far is far enough? Irate so-called “Christians” are protesting the planned building of mosques in Connecticut, Missouri, Indiana, Florida and California. Surely, their “proximity” to the former site of the World Trade Center is not the issue for them: it’s the right of some American citizens to believe in a faith different from their own. The only examples of Jesus being intolerant that I can recall from the Gospels were when it came to greed and hypocrisy – Ooops!
Nor will Terry Jones invocation of his “free speech” rights under the First Amendment pass muster. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes clearly indicated in his opinion in Schenck vs. the United States, the First Amendment guarantee of free speech presumes responsible exercise of that right. Deliberately calling upon one segment of society to rise up and provoke another segment of it to anger and violence cannot be construed as the responsible exercise of “free speech.” Already, as a result of Jones’ misguided call for the public burning of the Koran, there have been increased anti-American demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan. Way to win the hearts and minds of the people whose support we need in a difficult place in the world, Terry! Even when General Petraeus said this planned book-burning would endanger U. S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, Jones would not back down. Only a personal phone call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates would persuade the so-called “minister” to “suspend” his public demonstration.
Intolerance, fear and conformity do not make us great. In fact, they achieve quite the opposite, insuring only veniality, mediocrity and short-sightedness. There will always be a lunatic fringe on both extremes of the American political spectrum, and the lunatic fringe will never appeal to logic or reason. Instead, they will argue by sheer volume and outrage. We need to pay attention to them because they are dangerous. But they have nothing to offer except fear and hatred, and we don’t need to be swayed by that.

  
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@Firefly – Thanks for your comments Firefly – I couldn’t agree more. Some really great quotes too!

  
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Battles of Concord & Lexington – “The shots heard round the world” – 1775
“Remember the Maine!” – Spanish American War – 1812
“Remember the Alamo!” – Mexican American War – 1846
“Never Forget Fort Sumter!” – First Battle of the Civil War – 1861
“Never Forget Pearl Harbor!” – “A day that will live in Infamy”- 1941
“Gulf of Tonkin crisis” – Initiation of the official Vietnam Police Action – 1964
“9-11″ – “The day that changed America forever” – 2001

These are the primary initiators of the US’s military presence in the beginning, overwhelming might from 1941 on. All of them occured when there were warning of their happening. All of them lead the US to change it’s military and political futures, and all of them we were able to move on from, except this latest one.
This one seems to transfix us, in a way that is different. Between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the build up of the DHS, FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, updated airline controls, upgraded Airplanes, and other federal, state and local authorities, we have essentially spent half of the US’s current debt load (6 Trillion).
We have essentially dismantled Al Qaeda, dismantled most of the Afghanistan Taliban fighters, and identified and quarantined most of the Pashtun and Pakistani Taliban Fighters, and yet America is still terrified and willing to continue spending 1 Trillion dollars a year to continue to defend itself.
Even most of the countries harboring fighters, and those like Saudi Arabia which once tacitly supported the movements are rejecting not only Al Qaeda but also denouncing Wasabiist rhetoric and violent radicalism
as Imam after Imam issues fatwah after fatwah telling people to stop the hatred, stop the violence.

What is wrong is there has been no attempt by the media for rehabilitation of the Islamic world’s image in America’s eyes. America after world war II spent millions and had film reels in every theatre to rehabilitate the image of the War Time furor (The propaganda during and after the war were all stereotypical, ugly and racist, but they were also effective in allowing the US get over it’s outright hatred of the Japanese by 1955, when they returned to being an independent nation with a Constitution without ammendment that the US wrote for it).

I think this panel of experts on GPS on CNN on Sunday got it right -

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/podcasts/fareedzakaria/site/2010/09/12/gps.podcast.09.12.cnn
It is 22 minutes long, but it is a knowledge filled 22 minutes.

Essentially, the US is terrorizing itself now with very little meaningful activity directed against it, and if we continue with this trend America will suffer much worse than what happened on 9/11. The US will have become the victim that Al Qaeda wanted us to be. The news media will not really help this process because of the “if it bleeds, it ledes” and “if it burns, it earns” marketplace environment, so we’ll continue to see salaciousness instead of solutions.

The cognizant dissonance in the Media is so loud now, that the Republicans think that because they said NO! for 2 years, that the tea partiers are going to carry the party that created the series of current disasters back into power. Lets hope that the American body politic isn’t that stupid! Unfortunately, they probably are… And so with it goes the greatness of America.

  
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@Akacra – Your link doesn’t appear to be working, but thanks for your insightful comments anyway.

  
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Try this link:
http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/

Then click on the podcast/streaming video at the bottom of the text in the black box labeled Watch HERE .

  
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