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Aug 18

Written by: Greg Runyon
8/18/2010 12:52 PM 

I borrow books from my mom’s library when I go to visit. One of the books I got last time I was there is titled “The Rules” by Paul Dickson. This is a compilation of things like Murphy’s Law and so forth; supposed truisms that various people have come up with. It’s got some interesting stuff, and it’s one of those books you can start and stop reading anytime, anywhere on any page, which is sometimes a plus.

One of the “rules” that I read last night came from a delightfully-named gentleman called Snell Putney (I assume Snell is a man, and a gentle one at that), who, according to Dickson wrote a book called The Conquest of Society. His maxim was “If the people of a democracy are allowed to do so, they will vote away the freedoms which are essential to that democracy.” I was struck by this statement in particular because of all of the recent hubbub about the Muslim group that would like to build a mosque and community center on private property somewhere near the “Ground Zero” site of 9/11.

There are apparently a number of people in New York and, now that it has gotten national attention, across America who believe that this is offensive to the memory of those who died on that tragic day. I must respectfully disagree.

What makes our nation great is the fact that we have guaranteed personal freedoms under the constitution. These freedoms cannot be taken away by a despotic ruler. But as Mr. Putney says, it would seem as if in this case, these likely well-meaning people will, via the political process, attempt to “vote away” their own freedom. Do they not see that if we can deny Muslims private property rights, even just this once, their own rights are in jeopardy?

I realize that emotions are high surrounding September 11th. I don’t necessarily disagree that they should be high. What these people fail to take in, blinded as they are by their emotions, is the big picture.

I think one of the reasons for ongoing, large-scale conflict in the world is the fact that people have a difficult time assigning proper blame, and that they also have a hard time forgiving and moving forward. In the case of 9/11, proper blame for the tragedy can be assigned toward radical, fundamentalist Muslims who seek to destroy the very freedoms that this country has as its foundation. Those who wish to prevent what is reported to be a moderate, peace-promoting, and freedom-loving Muslim group from building a facility near where the tragedy occurred are actually assisting the radical Muslims in the destruction of the free society they say they love.

At some point, societies must slough off the bonds of the past, get beyond the injustices done to them by other societies. We as Americans must take the lead in demonstrating this. If you are ruled by your hatred of another society that has done yours wrong, you will forever be tethered to the past, and it is hard to move forward when you have a rope around your midsection tying you to some fixed past point.

These same people who I see on television protesting this Muslim group building a place of worship and community outreach on their own private property would be up in arms, I have no doubt about it, if someone were to tell them that they could not do likewise.

One of the signs I saw being held by a protester said something like “No mosque at Ground Zero until there is a synagogue at Mecca.” Now, come on; that is not the sign of a person of reason. Even if that were a reasonable tit-for-tat, it is an obvious attempt to keep everyone anchored in the status quo. If you wish to be a leader in freedom, which is the whole basis for the U.S.’s existence, saying some other society ought to allow freedom first—and that once they do, you will—is no way to go about it. That is the negotiating tactic of an eight year old, and not at all how a country founded on freedom should act.

Estimates vary on how many Muslims live in America, anywhere from around a million to around 12 million depending on where you look. Regardless, there are a lot of practicing Muslims here. We need to be advertising that fact to the Muslim world, not trying to stifle their religious freedom. “When radical members of your community bomb America, they are bombing a place where more than a million Muslims live and worship freely.” Likewise, it would be ideal (and I don’t know if this is part of the plan or not, but it should be if it goes forward) if the Muslim cultural center in question included a display about 9/11, and about how it was a tragedy for all freedom loving people.

Don’t get me wrong: It is absolutely necessary that reasonable, moderate Muslims repudiate the beliefs and the actions of the radical factions of their religion. But it is similarly necessary that reasonable, moderate Americans guard the freedom (and private property rights) of reasonable, moderate Muslims who live here.

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3 comment(s) so far...

Re: Despotism Is Easy

I still like the idea of the gay bar opening right next door to the mosque. Muslims are intolerent of gays I understand.
What contractor would want to build this building with all of the controversy.
The Muslim community would get a lot more followers and clout with the American society if they come out and say they aren't gong to build it and here is why.
Another though is why did we go to Iraq and save millions of muslims if we are just going to turn around and shun them here? I don't understand the correlation of 911 with Muslims. If David Koresh would have bombed a building would christians all be put into the same category? Just some random thoughts.

By Gary on   8/18/2010 2:11 PM

Re: Despotism Is Easy

In all honesty I'm torn on this subject. I can see all sides which in some situations is a blessing. In this one not so much.

I feel the Muslims have the right to build what they will. It's NOT on ground zero but in fact a few blocks from there.

However, on the flip side. All those Americans who lost someone on that fateful day may feel like it's a slap in the face. After all when I loved one dies in such a hanious way, it's easier for the family to point fingers at an entire group then it is to blame just the extremist who were responsible.

Putting myself in the shoes of those who live in and around the city, those who lost the loved ones, I'm not sure I would really want that built anywhere near the site either. Would feel like a slap in the face.

On the flip side, America was built on freedom of expression. The American citizens have a right to believe in any deity they choose and worship as they will. One of the wonderful things about living here. So looking at it from that point of view then yes, they should be allowed to build.
I feel also though if they do build there they should erect some sort of tribute to 9/11.

Flip floppy on the whole thing? Yes, I am. LOL....

By Jamie on   8/18/2010 2:12 PM

Re: Despotism Is Easy

I have only praise for this piece - someone who is brave enough to step out from the crowd and make a reasoned case for the more controversial side of the argument is exactly what we need in a free and fair democracy. As soon as we allow ourselves to descend to the level of the very extremists we are seeking to thwart, resorting to reactionary and fundamentally unreasonable methods and putting emotions - however deep and well justified they may be - ahead of good sense and principles of fair treatment, then we have lost the battle.

By James on   9/7/2010 9:14 AM

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