Charles Krauthammer seems determined to make me bleed from the ears. I’ve tried to figure out the appropriate format by which to rhetorically kick him in the nuts; after scrapping the post in frustration a couple times I’ve realized I’m going to have to resort to a cliched Fisking. So strap yourself in and let’s plow through this shit shall we?
A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).
Well there was no miraculous, transcendent religious event. A sacrifice generally involves a conscious decision; otherwise it’s termed as, y’know, either “murder” or “a tragic accident” depending on the situation. More specifically, a noble sacrifice implies something done on behalf of someone else. So those poor folks died so… what? So we could go to war in Afghanistan? In Iraq? Because if not for them people like you and me might’ve been drafted and forced into… um, lucrative jobs in high finance? Stints as the world’s most poorly-trained security guards? Did they sacrifice themselves on behalf of George Bush’s approval ratings? Exactly what the fuck is this miserable excuse for a professional writer trying to say here?
So that leaves us with Door C: 3,000 innocent people dying violently — but at least for their sake fairly quickly — on American soil is fully and completely equivalent to the killing of some 10-15 million civilians — including a nearly-successful attempt to eradicate an ethnic group from the face of the earth — in a systematic, mechanized, multi-year campaign of torture, illegal experimentation and slow-motion starvation. You’ll have to forgive me if I fail to dignify this bit with further response.
When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.
“(not actually a) Mosque at (not actually) Ground Zero = Trivial. Inappropriate. Emblematic of shortsighted populace who forgets the memory of those lost on 9/11.
Gay bar & Strip Club at (not actually) Ground Zero = Solemn. Dignified. Respectful.”
That’s why Disney’s 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War (and that was wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.
Because a cultural/community center is totally the same thing as a for-profit commercial enterprise! Also: 9/11 is to al-Qa’ida exactly as Pearl Harbor is to Japanese. (You can tell not only by how they’re constantly being referred to as the al-Qa’idanese, but also by how we immediately went and bombed the dogshit outt’ve al-Qa’idastan.)
And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.
Similarly, Krauthammer by no means intends to devalue Abdul Rauf’s heartfelt mission to bring the community together. (Other than the part coming up where he impugns the man’s motives, of course. But that doesn’t count.)
Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers “to show some special sensitivity to the situation.” Yet, as columnist Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message or show “special sensitivity” to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and therefore unique criteria govern what can be done there.
I’m sure the fact that Bloomberg went from requesting to demanding said sensitivity in the space of a sentence is just an oversight. Whoops! Typo! :) :) :)
Bloomberg’s implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.
But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque?
I get it: the Mayor’s the problem! How dare Bloomberg allow himself to be assigned a simplistic strawman argument in print?! A right prick, that guy.
Moreover, as a practical matter, there’s no guarantee that this couldn’t happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi — spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and onetime imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?
Good point. Come to think of it who is to say that Baptist churches won’t someday be taken over by the Sovereign Citizen Movement? Catholic churches might be used to cook meth at some point in the future. Anglicans might decide to renounce their current dogma in favor of human sacrifice and bestiality. Synagogues might be used to show FreeCreditReport.com commercials on infinite loops. All houses of worship are obviously just disasters waiting to happen; clearly Krauthammer could not in good conscience object to razing the lot of ’em.
An Aulaqi preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Aulaqi preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege. Or would the mayor then step in — violating the same First Amendment he grandiosely pretends to protect from mosque opponents — and exercise a veto over the mosque’s clergy?
Using the power you just finished telling us he doesn’t have?
Location matters. Especially this location. Ground Zero is the site of the greatest mass murder in American history — perpetrated by Muslims of a particular Islamist orthodoxy in whose cause they died and in whose name they killed. [emphasis added]
I’ll just leave this here.
ps. Maybe picking on grammar is a little petty but when did orthodoxies become people?
Of course that strain represents only a minority of Muslims. Islam is no more intrinsically Islamist than present-day Germany is Nazi — yet despite contemporary Germany’s innocence, no German of goodwill would even think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka.
“Just in case you forgot: 9/11 = Holocaust. Also: nationality, religion and ethnicity are interchangeable and constitute perfectly valid points of comparison, particularly because there are no divisions within Islam and all Muslims ascribe to identical dogma.”
Wait… I think we were talking about mosques here. Now it’s a community center? Baby steps…
Which makes you wonder about the goodwill behind Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal. This is a man who has called U.S. policy “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 and, when recently asked whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, replied, “I’m not a politician. . . . The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”
“Peer into the shiny flawed analogy! Gaze upon it! And if that isn’t enough this motherfucker even disagrees with me on politics. What kind of nutty-ass moderate refuses to take hard-line positions anyway?!”
America is a free country where you can build whatever you want — but not anywhere.
Seriously? Shit yeah! I’m gonna build my own military base… maybe a couple nuclear reactors too. Who do I check with on where I’m allowed to put them? Is Krauthammer the authority on that too?
That’s why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn’t meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all. These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics.
“Which of course explains why I’m bringing them up in an article about practicalities.”
Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero.
Wait, has he had a sudden change of heart? Sweet, time to break ground two blocks away from Ground Zero on that project that is not a fucking mosque in any way shape or form for fuck’s sake you feckless, small-minded, insipid, reprobate retread propagandist cocksucker.
Build it anywhere but there.
The governor of New York offered to help find land to build the mosque elsewhere. A mosque really seeking to build bridges, Rauf’s ostensible hope for the structure, would accept the offer.
“Remember how I was saying the state has no constitutional authority to intervene in this matter? So yeah, obviously the proper solution is for Abdul Rauf to accept the state’s unconstitutional offer of intervention in this matter.”