In the Arena

The Soft Bigotry of Soft Bigotry

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Shame on all those Republicans salivating over President Obama’s support for the Cordoba Islamic Center, which is to be built several blocks away from Ground Zero in New York. Despite all the high-minded words about “sensitivity” for the families of the victims, this is slimeball politics, pure and simple, except for when it descends into outright religious bigotry–which seems to be what happens every time Newt Gingrich opens his mouth. Does that demented, anger-infused doofus actually believe that putting the mosque near Ground Zero is the equivalent of putting a swastika next to the Holocaust Museum? Does he really want to slander the tens of thousands of hard-working, freedom-loving, fiercely entrepreneurial Muslims living in this country? I mean, what a jerk.

Meanwhile, I’m not surprised that Mark McKinnon, George W. Bush’s media adviser during the campaign, has defended Obama on this. Both Presidents Bush would have done the exact same thing…as would have every American President who served during my lifetime, even Nixon. Religious freedom is one of those inalienable rights that we’re endowed with by our Creator–Allah, Yahweh, whatever you want to call Him/Her. It ain’t negotiable, even if the “moderate” leader of the mosque said some obnoxious things about American “complicity” in the 9/11 attacks. The right to say obnoxious things is protected, too–if it weren’t, Pat Robertson would have been out of business by now. I mean, wasn’t he the guy who said that 9/11 happened because “God lifted His protection from us” because of abortion rights? Doesn’t that put Robertson in the same league as al-Rauf? Should we not allow the Christian Broadcasting Network to have access to New York’s cable systems?

Finally, a personal note:

My grandmother’s maiden name was Rachel Mendoza. Her family–a famous Sephardic tribe–migrated to Spain after the Romans kicked the Jews out of Israel. They lived there peaceably, sometimes prosperously, sometimes creatively for the entire Cordoba period, the era of Islamic rule. They were kicked out of Spain, with all the other Jews, in 1492–by the Catholic King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, who were quite the religious fanatics when they weren’t busy funding Christopher Columbus. The point is, Islamic rule in Spain was some of the better times during my family’s 2000 year wander. The last 100 years have been, without question, the best of times for us Mendoza/Kleins because of the rights we enjoy under the United States Constitution. Those who would mess with those rights now may win some short-term political victories, they might shave some more points off the President’s poll ratings, but they will not succeed in the long run–because this is America and the forces of tolerance always prevail over those of bigotry. ¬†And if the bigots do succeed in the long run, this won’t be America anymore.

I’m proud the President said what he did, but he couldn’t legally do otherwise: if he hadn’t supported the mosque, he would not have been upholding the Constitution of the United States.