Monday, July 19, 2010

The Great Refudiator

Lost in the mockery generated by the slip o' the Tweet that Sarah Palin made is her core message of racial and religious bigotry. It is this contaminated message we must keep in focus even as we are entertained by her claiming we must "refudiate" the Mosque to be built near Ground Zero.

The hate message goes like this: "Muslims are outsiders and let's be sure to keep them that way."

Too late in New York City. The Muslim population here is roughly 750,000, a little less than 10% of the overall count in the city. We all know that 99.99% of those people are normal, work-a-day, loyal Americans.

Take my friend (and local deli owner) Yahya, who is from Yemen and came to New York on money he had saved for 17 years starting from the time he was 12 years old. 

He aspires for his children, male and female, to attend college. He has resisted pressure from his large extended family back in his homeland to betroth his 10 year old daughter, because, he says, "We are in America now and the traditions here are..." and he hesitates... "Better for everyone." He smiles uncomfortably. I know it pains him to critique his homeland, but he has embraced the American Dream with a bear hug.

Yahya likes the idea that he can attend the mosque he chooses. He likes that he can make his beliefs based on the Koran flexible enough to fit his new life. (He prays three times a day facing Mecca - once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening, at home or at his mosque but never at work.) He says that it is the Catholics who have taught him to love his religion again after 9/11, because they heartily criticize the Church but still love Jesus. Yahya says he loves Jesus, who is a much more sympathetic character than Mohammed. But Allah is Lord and Mohammed is his prophet. Yahya is open but he is bound to his better traditions. We talk about Jesus a lot. Jesus is and always will be mystical to him. Mohammed is a mystic turned pragmatist.

There is a simple acid test that can be applied concerning the building of a mosque near, but not at, Ground Zero. The small-minded should ask themselves if a Catholic or Protestant Church, a Hindu Temple, a Jewish Temple, a Buddhist Temple, or an Atheist Temple To Ethical Culture should be built upon the same spot. If the anti-mosque people say "Why sure, that would be all right" then they're biased against Muslims.

When Timothy McVeigh blew apart Oklahoma City, no one argued that all Christians should be held responsible. We know that would be ridiculous. The rational and truly spiritual among us know that all Muslims should not be held responsible for the acts of a handful of psychopaths.

The mosque is a genuine gesture of reconciliation and redemption. That so many Americans are using the politics of divisiveness to try to shout down this community-oriented building tells us that those people need to look more deeply into their (generally and supposedly) Christian consciences.

Palin, as one of their leaders, is not a mere buffoon, but someone who needs to be exposed as the vile person she is. We should stop laughing at this hockey mom on the fame drug because in fact she is trying to cut the heart out of our country. Literally and figuratively.

We have a process for deciding such things in New York; let the vox populi be heard through its elected representatives and not through the mob - most of whose members it seems have no understanding of New York's history, culture, and diversity.

Remember, it was the mob who shouted out "Give us Barabbas!" so its instincts aren't always exactly spot on.

And let The Great Refudiator cleanse her dark heart. Then, as we do with a Joe Biden or an Arnold Schwarzenegger, we might more easily forgive a very entertaining slip of the tongue.

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