Build no Mosque Near Zero

August 30, 2010

The controversy over Manhattan’s “ground zero” mosque signifies the power of fear over faith,  hate over ideals, demagoguery over decency, and nonsense over sense.

In the case of nonsense over sense, the proposed “mosque” is actually intended to be a cultural center which is to include not only a mosque but a swimming pool –and  it’s not even at ground zero,  it’s to be two blocks away from ground zero.  Therefore, it would not be not a “ground zero” mosque at all, it would be a “two-blocks-away-from-ground-zero” mosque; or a “two-blocks-away-from-ground-zero Muslim swimming pool”; but that doesn’t work well in a demagogic sound bite. So, one question for the hopelessly fastidious might be, “What’s the cut-off distance for mosques or Muslim swimming  pools—three blocks, five, ten, a half mile?” At what distance does a mosque or swimming pool become a “ground zero” facility, or not?

The answer is, “If it’s close enough to my political angst and innate fear of “the other” to give me night sweats it’s a “ground zero” mosque.

Build no mosque near zerozero’s too near the hole in our hearts; to near the naught we know at night when the bogey-man bites

This is where demagogues come in: through the door in our brain marked “fear”.  In many people this door is often not secured tightly enough to keep a house-breaking demagogue out. In others a welcome mat for demagogues is placed at its threshold at the first hint of the possibility of personal loss.  This leads to the victory of demagoguery over decency. After a session with a demagogue, this is the door a previously decent person voluntarily walks through into the world of hate.

Build no mosque near zero — zero’s too near the nadir of our understanding,  the O in no, the void which flowers in our capacity to destroy, the nil of unknowing, the aught of un-wantin

What demagogues really don’t like are constitutions.  A political constitution, if it contains things he or she loathes, will unsettle a demagogue big time and ruin their golf or wolf-shooting day. A case in point is the Constitution of the United States of America and its pesky Bill of Rights. Our Bill of Rights is our protection against the tyranny of the majority.  It’s a list of things government cannot do no matter what a majority may say. It says things like, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” I know it doesn’t say, Islam or otherwise, but you get the gist.

We should be thankful that in building our constitution  founder James Madison “understood factions”, as constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley observed in an article about the difficulties of forming a government in Afghanistan. Turley then went on, “In his study of why governments fail, Madison found factions to be the chief culprit.”  In this day of Tea-Parties and the Party of No Madison’s insight is something to be seriously considered. When factions get out of hand, when a majority of Christians, say, may not like what a minority of Muslims believe, our Bill of Rights kicks in —unless the power of hate over ideals kicks in first.

Build no mosque near zero — zero’s too near the zip we feel when we love hate, the cipher that numbers the digits displayed in a holy fist, the nada of exclusion which seethes in the interstices between faith and fear

Faith as I understand it (especially religious faith) is an antidote to fear: fear of the unknown, the great mysteries of life, death. Faith, on a religious level, is believing  a good God exists despite the evidence of the things that are glaringly wrong in the world. On a political level faith is belief in our constitution and the ideals of which it consists.  A loss of faith in either arena is a sure-fire road to defeat.

Build no mosque near zero — zero’s too near the nullification of our presumptions of God’s will in the midnight of His contradictions

I must confess I’m deeply troubled by the Islam represented by fanatics who express their faith in destruction.  But, at the same time, I have to remember the history of the religion(s) to which the majority of Americans lay claim: the Christian crusades, its burning and torture of heretics; the anti-Semitic pogroms of Europe; the lynchings by white Christians in the deep south, the ruthless god we find in the Old Testament —the only difference between these and the excesses of Islam is time: the time required to reach modernity, time for Islam to experience its own Enlightenment.  Whether this is accomplished in enough time to turn things around before Christian America back-slides into a Glenn-Beckian, Limbaughian, Gingrichian, Palinesque fascist theocracy is the question.

Build no mosque near the silence of the negative space in which god speaks his or hers apparently futile promise of peace and good will among men  —no mosque and no church





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