Friday, August 20, 2010

An Exercise in Clear Thinking...

I don't know if you keep up with current events around the nation, dear readers, but there is an issue that has been gaining a great deal of the spotlight recently in New York City. There has been a great deal of controversy over the notion of placing a Muslim community center, which would contain a mosque, two blocks away from Ground Zero. Being a fair person, I do have to concede that there are two sides to this argument, and that both sides have valid points.

For building the community center there are several arguments: First, these are NYC blocks. That means the actual location of where the community center would something like a quarter of a mile away. How much further would you have people go to not "contaminate" the seemingly sacred area around Ground Zero? Second, given the construction of NYC buildings, which is mostly skyscrapers, standing in front the intended build site, you wouldn't even be able to SEE Ground Zero without X-Ray vision. In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. This particular location is completely disconnected from Ground Zero, so there shouldn't be any issue at all.

Against building the community center there are several arguments: There is a strong significance to the actual site of Ground Zero, but also to the surrounding area. The families of those who died have a strong emotional tie to that place, and the municipal government as elected representatives of those families should be mindful of the pain and anguish those families would feel as a place is built that can be seen as a symbol of the very beliefs that those who attacked the WTC followed. It would be an insult to them, to have that symbol built on ground where loved ones were treated for, and died of, wounds received in the attack. It would be like building a tribute to Charles Manson in front of each of his victims houses, or a rapist asking his victims out on a date. If the intent is to simply build a community center and a place of worship, why not respect the pain of those families and simply build it somewhere else?

There are cogent and valid arguments for both sides. And it's a difficult decision to make. A difficult line to walk. But this country, by it's VERY DEFINITION, is a land of the free. In fact, freedom is one of the core founding principles of this country. I have stated time and again, to my friends, and on this blog, that principles only matter if you hold to them when they are difficult to keep. Freedom, is an EXCEPTIONALLY difficult principle to keep. It's a double-edged sword. After all, if you're free to say what you want, believe what you want, worship what you want, and do what you want by virtue of simply being a citizen in this country, then shouldn't other citizens have that same freedom? Even if what they want to do is something you don't like? You're free to not like it, but you can't step on their freedoms. Why? Because you would NEVER tolerate anyone stepping on yours. THAT is the trick with being the land of free.

The unspoken part of sticking to that freedom is the choice to accept the consequences of letting everyone be free. Let them build the community center and the mosque. If... IF it becomes a hub for terrorists, and that is HUGE IF, the we'll bring the damn near legendary lethality of the American military to bear and take it down. In this country, it's INNOCENT until proven guilty. This community center is NOT a terrorist front, until it can be PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, that it is. So far, that proof is in the same drawer with those files on the location of Bush's WMDs.

But the part that I find most interesting is the tactics being used to subvert this community center. There are people spreading rumor and innuendo as fact across "reputable" news organizations, and they are gaining a bit of momentum. The Imam of the new mosque MAY have terrorist ties. Well, I MAY get hit by a car tomorrow, but that doesn't stop me from getting up and going about my day. But this kind of fear campaign is reminiscent of another era, where rumor was gospel and accusations could and often did, destroy lives of decent, innocent people: The Red Scare of the late 40s & 50s, led by your favorite and mine, Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Fear mongering, when done properly, always gains attention because it uses a kernel of truth to fuel the madness built into their propaganda.

There always has been and always will be only ONE cure for madness: Wisdom. And as you well know, dear readers, wisdom comes from knowledge. And from questioning that knowledge, constantly verifying it's accuracy. That is the true counterbalance for when the scales of society tip towards madness. In McCarthy's day, however, there wasn't anything there to counterbalance. Nothing to break the momentum, after all, we had just come out of WWII, we were still catching our breath from such a long time of despair and threat of death. This country was vulnerable. Now, I'm sure that because of the witch hunts led by McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities, many hidden enemy agents were discovered. But nowhere near in proportion to the damage those hearings and blacklists did to honest, innocent people.

Today, however, we do have a counterbalance. It's called comedy. Satire. Parody. When you see Darth Vader walking down the ramp of a spaceship you take notice. He's bad ass, he's scary. Then he slips on a banana peel and falls right on his caped ass. All of a sudden, not so scary, not so bad ass, because in that moment we added a bit of knowledge to ourselves and placed Lord Vader in an entirely different context. That's what today's comedy does. Sure, it makes you laugh, but it also gives an outside viewpoint, information without the fear, thoughts without the rumors, and while the laughter wipes away your fear, that viewpoint breaks the madness. If you're interested, check out this particular bit of comedy from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and tell me that this controversy doesn't seem less fearsome and more ridiculous.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

No comments:

Post a Comment