When was the last time you were scared by something you weren't thinking about? Terrorism is the one warfare that relies on the cooperation of the enemy. Al Qaida attacked us nearly a decade ago, and they've been the schoolyard bully ever since. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. If we ignore the terrorists, they lose most of their power over us. I'm not suggesting that we reduce our security, but do we have to make every failed hijacking or bombing a national reason to scream and scurry around like a barnyard full of frightened chickens? Yes, the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim extremists, but Timothy McVeigh was a Baptist extremist and we don't freak out every time the Southern Baptist Convention announces its next Disney boycott. Why then are we losing our collective minds over this mosque being built in New York City? "It's two blocks from Ground Zero(tm)!" So? Does that really matter? What if it were four blocks, or eight, or two miles? Someone would object. Sure there are people who are legitimately offended by it going in 'so close' to the site of the attacks, but the vast majority are just parroting what they hear spewing from the radical right-wing squawk boxes like Newt Gingrich and Glen Beck. And there are plenty of non-Muslim people, including many who lost family members in the attacks, who support the mosque. Ultimately what does it matter to you or me if they build that mosque? And more importantly what does it mean to the very fabric of our nation if we somehow find a way to stop it? There is no premise more fundamental to this country than freedom of religion. Most of the colonists who came here from Europe were trying to escape religious tyranny. But now, because a group from a certain religion did something bad to us, we are prepared to toss our very foundations out of the window in the name of fear and hatred? Is that what the United States of America is all about?
I will say this. On September 12, 2001 I was wracking my brain to make sense of the attacks. What would Al Qaida stand to gain by angering the 'sleeping giant'? Today it's very easy to see. We are not just a country divided, we are fractured almost beyond repair. The dust cloud from the collapsing towers took a few hours to settle over New York City, but the cloying smoke of fear and distrust that has blanketed our nation has yet to settle, and if we continue to fan the flames of hate in the name of political exigency, and don't for a minute imagine that those in power aren't behind the fans, then it may never dissipate. Our leaders quickly seized upon the premise that a frightened nation will allow them to do almost anything in the name of security, and were they ever right. So long as we are looking under our beds, and under our neighbor's beds, for terrorists, and branding every Muslim a terrorist, then the government can quietly continue to erode our freedoms, increase their power base, and line their pockets with our futures.
What's the solution? Forget Al Qaida. Forget Bin Laden. Ignore the mosque down the street the same way you ignore the church, or temple, or synagogue. Raise your children as responsibly as you can, and turn your attention to where it should be...to Congress. To the White House. To the Supreme Court. Find out what your local representatives are doing in your name while you protest a building thousands of miles away. And for the love of all that you call holy get the idea that all people of a certain faith are the same out of your head. I don't like the Catholic church, but I know and love many Catholics. I don't like the Southern Baptist Convention, but I know and love many Southern Baptists.(Hell, I married one) And I don't care for many of the teachings of Islam, but that doesn't mean that I for one minute believe that all Muslims are hate filled murderers. In fact I'd be willing to bet, though I can't say for sure, that more people have been killed in the name of Jesus over the course of the last two thousand years than in the name of Allah. We are all just dumb little blobs of protoplasm scrambling around this planet trying to make the best of an existence that often makes little sense. Does it help anything, or anyone to be hateful just because others are? Without our complicity, without our ears, and without our acting out, extremists are just angry little people shooting their blackened hearts at the world. Ignore them, and they will go away.
In my opinion, of course.
Supplemental: When I wrote this this morning I had not yet listened to Dan Carlin's latest Common Sense podcast...but I am thrilled to echo his views.