Ground Zero and Reasons to Hope
The Ground Zero Mosque. We couldn’t avoid the topic forever, so let’s talk about it. Unless you are like my 15-year-old brother (‘Eh?’), you will have heard about it, furore and all. At this point, whenever I hear the phrase, I turn around to whoever it is and with the exaggerated patience reserved for imbeciles, I tell them, ‘it’s not at Ground Zero, and it’s not a mosque. Now be quiet.’
Actually, I don’t add the last sentence, but I wish I could.
Seriously, I am like an internet-magpie. I see a link, and I click on it, and down the rabbit hole vortex I go, clicking link after link, collecting article after article, getting angrier and angrier with all of the insane comments I have the idiocy to read. It’s an ugly world out there.
Astonishing is, that in the guise of open-mindedness and exercising their First Amendment rights*, and despite the denunciations and denials from vituperative commentators and right-wing nutters, concerned citizens and still-grieving victims, all insist that nobody had a problem with a mosque existing per se, they just have a problem with it existing anywhere near Ground Zero, and possibly in fact anywhere in Lower Manhattan – in fact, scratch that, not in NYC, okay? Because that’s just insensitive.**
Truth be told, a mosque anywhere in the US just makes all of us bigoted idiots plain uncomfortable.
Apart from it being the most ludicrous and spurious connection (and I rather think it’s more sacrilegious to have a McDonald’s in the same city as Ground Zero) – that having a Muslim place of worship is a smirking ‘screw you’ to the American public**** – it seems to have brought out all the haters and united them, right wing and left, giving them a free ticket to express all the loathing, suspicion, prejudice and fear – yes, fear – that they harbour towards a community of their fellow Americans. This is all the more strange when you consider how Being American is quite a big deal to Americans, and it seems badly inconsonant with all the values that are meant to define what Being American is.
Ugliest of all, and not surprising to me in the least, was the news that this wasn’t as isolated a cause as people would like to believe. It happens across the US – and the UK, too, let’s not be exclusive – without the excuse of Ground Zero being a few blocks away, legitimising hatred and giving voice to a sentiment that has always existed – as such sentiments do in some form or other – running counter-current to all our ideas of englightenment. So far, it has been taboo to admit them because it paints you as a hater, and a dangerous one. But it’s okay now. Enough ‘important’ people are doing it as to make the rest of us think it’s okay to trash Muslims or Martians or Mormons or Mohicans or Marsupials or anyone else enough people have accumulated enough vitriol against.
And frankly, we could talk about people being stupid all day.† But that actually isn’t why I began writing this – no, really. I have ranted (MILDLY) for several paragraphs, but the real reason was this:
In St Charles County, Missouri, a church opens its doors every week for Muslims to do the Friday Jum’ah Prayer.
And they don’t have to do that, but they do. And this is the perfect antidote for every negative article and poorly-articulated opinion I have read, and every blow my faith in humanity†† took.
‘Khan, who owns three gas stations, said most people in St. Charles County are “open-hearted and humble”.’
And I think Mr Khan has hit on something very vital: it isn’t so much important to be open-minded as to be open-hearted. We pride ourselves – rather too much††† – on our openmindedness and consider it a measure of our liberality, but you can be so open-minded your brain falls out. And that’s not nice, when there’s so much ‘open’ that there’s no ‘mind’. Don’t do that. Put your brain back and open your heart, because we’re all human, and while we have differences intellectual, theological and thaumaturgical, nothing changes the humanity we have in common.
* Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what the heck the First Amendment actually WAS. Oh I had HEARD of it, but that’s like you’ve heard of the Easter Bunny.
** Out of interest, do planes still fly over NYC? Because I think that’s pretty insensitive,*** too. PTSD is real, people.
*** Also, I think it’s a moral outrage that skyscrapers still exist anywhere in the US. It’s cold, man. All of the 9/11 victims and their families and friends and ethnic neighbours frown upon your tall buildings.
**** cf. ‘Please forgive me for the actions of extremists I have never met who commit acts of violence that I have never advocated’, and to give that some balance, from the same author: Not in our town: what happens when meanness wins.
† Not sure if that means talking all day about people being stupid, or talking about people who are stupid all day. MAYBE BOTH.
†† It must be added that I don’t have a great deal of faith in humanity.
††† i.e. ‘I am so openminded I have one black friend!’
‘Well I’M so openminded I have a black friend who is MILDLY JEWISH, BEAT THAT SCUM’
‘I’m so openminded my black friend is a HALF-CASTE GAY ALBINO RASTAFARIAN who smokes WEED and is POOR and is a CLICHE OMG SO BEAT THAT, NEGRO.’
The Rock Pool has survived SIX MONTHS and a HUNDRED POSTS, and we are celebrating by giving away a picture-book of a different kind: read an interview with the author, Gwynneth Beasley, hosted by our own lovely Maryam.