"Ground Zero Mosque:" Politics of Fear and Persecution Assail American Character

As the days drag on into the November mid-term election, there is no doubt that there has been a lot of political posturing and grandstanding from many candidates running for offices and those who are trying to hold on to their offices. They seek political gain by latching onto the most emotional issue du jour. That was expected.

What I didn't expect, and what really disturbs me, is how much they are willing to assail the American character for their gain, be it the latest rant about the "ground zero mosque," which is neither at ground zero nor a mosque, or the 14th Amendment which defines in no uncertain terms who are American citizens and what rights we have as American citizens.

I wrote a piece just last week on the 14th Amendment in which I stated that the very attack on this Amendment is un-American at its core. The attackers seek to lessen the validity of certain groups of American electorate and to dismantle the very part of the Constitution that made America the land of equality for all. Their attack went to the very fabric of who we are as Americans.

Now this week, this piece seems so out of date. So last week. What is the target this week?

The latest rant from the flame-fanning media and the complicitous GOP is directed at the Cordoba House, now renamed Park 51. It is going to be a cultural center complete with a basketball court, a swimming pool, an auditorium, and a place where people can gather to say prayers.

However, in an attempt to be heard above all the fray, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee, all whose names are floated around as potential presidential candidates for 2012, have weighed in on the "ground zero mosque" issue. One of them even invented a new word, "refudiate," to blow more hot air. According to them, it is going to be the hotbed of Muslim extremism, a training ground for terrorists right in the middle of Manhattan.

Come on! This is absurd! We are Americans! If we see this kind of furtive activity in our midst, we are going to be the one pulling guns out of holsters. We are going to be the ones jumping on them if they were doing something to harm us!

Denying that would be to deny the heroism of those who died over the fields of Pennsylvania in September of 2001, those who acted so selflessly by taking actions into their own hands against real terrorists. The phone conversations they had with their loved ones before the crash reveal that they kept their cool. They didn't hold crazy signs, they didn't say nasty things. They "rolled" like real Americans. Unlike the ones that sit in the comfort of their air-conditioned studios and echo chambers and rant until all they hear is their absurd ideas amplified many times over until nothing of reason or rational thought is heard.

The obvious fact that these supposed "terrorists" at the cultural center will be vastly outnumbered by Americans all around them is completely lost on those who are willing to follow these ranters. Why would it not be lost? These political posturers have been seeking the spotlight by making the loudest, most ridiculous accusations possible, by spreading the worst kind of fear among us because nothing else matters to them than winning the next election.

Wait, that sounds so like 2004 when Bush was elected. I remember clearly sitting at Midas waiting for my car to be fixed and listening to men talk about how we have to vote for Bush because, if he is not in the office, there will be terrorists under their beds. It is 2004 all over again. Instead of moving forward, healing, and forgiving, we are going back 6 years into the heart of darkness, into the mass hysteria that paralyzed us for almost a decade.

So, who exactly will be using this cultural center? Americans. It is a recreational/cultural facility for Muslim Americans. Just like the neighborhood YMCAs for young Christian men. The YWCAs for young Christian women. The Jewish cultural centers all over the country for the young and old Jewish folks. The Chinese cultural centers where children of Chinese heritage go to learn Chinese.

What the GOP and the "ground zero mosque" detractors want you to believe is that the Americans at the Muslim cultural center are not Americans. They are Muslims. And, if they are Muslims, they must be terrorists.

Remember the Japanese internment camps? The same rationale can be found behind them: they are Japanese, so they must be our enemies. We interned our own fellow citizens. We interned them for no other reason than they were Japanese Americans. Now we are poised to persecute Muslims for no other reasons than for their religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

The conservative wing, which has allowed itself to be hijacked by the shrill noisemakers of the Tea Party movement for political gain of the election year, has fanned the flame of bigotry and ignorance through catchy slogans: "death panels," "Ground Zero Mosque." What next?

But what kind of future is the GOP looking at for itself? Blinded by the desire to win their politics of zero sum game, driven by megalomania and concurrent ignorance of frightening proportions, the GOP is mounting an attack on the very American character of inclusion, equality, and freedom. Spreading fear is not freedom. It is the worst kind of politics there is.

Heaven help us. Let America shine through as America, the beacon of hope for the rest of the world, for we decreed, "Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free." We, Americans, long to be free. Free of fear. Free of persecution. Free of demagoguery.