Recently a friend of mine very thoughtfully and earnestly asked me what I thought about The Mosque. Yeah you know what I'm talking about. The one down the street from the World Trade Center. I rolled my eyes and said I didn't care. But upon further pressing for what I "really thought" I went into a bit more detail. After questions of where it would really be, and admitting that I thought an "onsite Mosque" would indeed be nothing more than a big eff you in the faces of all of America and especially those still grieving the loss of loved ones, I carried on;
America is because many years ago a group of people, in an act completely un-patriotic, sought religious and political freedom in the wilds of the New World. And America still exists today not because of our military might, but because of the promise our land holds for all those who remain oppressed and without options. This is still the New World to some people. When our founding fathers set down the laws of our land, the fairness and equality they put onto paper were in truth the furthest thing from reality; and yet today we have some of the most solid laws heard of in place to protect those first ideals as well as the rights of those around us, however different from us they might be. One of those rights is the freedom to worship where, and how, and when, and wearing what, you choose. Even if it is down the street from the site of 9-11, and even if you do wear a tiny white hat while you do it.
What we as Americans fail to realize is that Middle Eastern Muslims are very different from the Muslims in India, who are very different than the Muslims who worked in and were also killed in the towers of the World Trade Center. What sent that specific and tiny group of Middle Eastern Muslims on a waring Jihad against us was not necessarily their Muslimness; rather it was their culture of violence that attacked us. Just as our culture of violence attacked them back. And if we could make steps towards understanding the cultural differences between these separate groups, if we could stop drawing sweeping conclusions against a whole based on the actions of a tiny and extremist sector, if we could understand the atrocities committed in the name of our own political and religious extremism, them perhaps we could make concrete steps towards love and forgiveness. And apologies.
I am not a Unitarian by any means. Nor am I Muslim. Nor does defending the rights of those people put me under their respective labels. Isn't it odd that I had to say that? That I had to make sure that you, dear reader, knew I wasn't "one of them"? Hypocrisy is rampant, and as I'm typing this what I hoped woudl be a heroic defense, all I can see is the eyes of the mothers of my friends widening, suddenly disapproving of our hangouts and tea parties (the kind with actual tea and muffins.) and I wanted them to know that I wasn't "one of them". What horrible words "they" "them". Aren't we just...we?
We are a brotherhood. A humanity made for each other. If we could just switch shoes and walk around for a day or two, I think that then and only then would we see things clearly. Taking a step towards understanding another human being's culture goes a long way towards our own personal sense of peace, but also contributes to a global peace as well.
(P.S. what I think they ought to do is make that site into a tranquil park, full of trees and flowers, plaques and bench's, a place for meditation and reflection. What better way to honor a memory? Perhaps I've been reading too much Secret Garden...)