Is it too late to comment on last month's NYC mosque mess? If not...
Let me start off by saying how funny it is how the media creates controversies during a heated election year. As iffy as that mosque-cum-rec center may seem now, keep in mind that there's a Muslim religious center 15 minutes from where Flight 93 crashed. (The Pentagon mosque was an exaggeration, it seems.) There was even a clip on YouTube where Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham discussed the midtown mosque on Fox News in December 2009 and implied that they were okay with its location (said clip has since been pulled). It's one thing to triumph and support the anger and frustration of a browbeaten sector of the American populace, but another to play on their ignorance and fear. In all likelihood, the 20% of the US population that inexplicably believes President Obama is Muslim probably weren't aware that such a religion existed before that fateful day in September 2001.
Sadly, this controversy says a lot about how xenophobic our country can be, and an unwillingness by some to keep an open mind or look into the facts. To say the 19 terrorists represented all Muslims is like saying Fred Phelps and Terry Jones represent all Christians. Every faith has its bad eggs, interpreting religious texts in the most literal way possible and regurgitating said texts into convinient bite-sized "truths" that make 98% of the world sound like satanic messengers. The problem is that these hopelessly ignorant demogogues control more of the media's attention that they rightfully should. This is not by any means an anti-religious statement; in fact, I fear that good, god-fearing Christians and equally spirital Muslims are getting lost in a shuffle of hatred and animosity.
In the past, I've commented that racial and religious prejudices are often detached from a political bias. A recent cover story in Time magazine about Israel brought to mind how liberals and conservatives sometimes portray each other as anti-Semetic. For example, a far-left liberal conspiracy theorist will imply that the Jews control the world's money and were secretly responsible for the global economic downturn. A neo-conservative conspiracy theorist will suggest that the Jews control the media in order to transmit their latent yet rigid Zionist-Socialist agenda. Both theories are complete garbage, but it's something to think about. There are plenty of instances in world history where Christians and Muslims alike have persecuted the Jews, and even though anti-Semetism in American culture has fell on the wayside in recent decades, most Muslims and Christians in other countries are apathetic to the Israeli state. That's another debate for another time.
The conclusion I'm in arriving to is that in troubling times, everyone's looking for a scapegoat or a fall guy. When the southern United States struggled to gain their footing during the Reconstruction era, white locals pinned the blame on recently freed slaves. When the American economy teeter-tootered in the 1890s, financial experts pointed their finger at the sudden explosion of European immigrants. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American citizens were sent to internment camps. Now we're in a double-dip recession nine years removed from the WTC attacks and people are wary of the "growing" influence of Muslims in American culture. Times are tense right now, but there are bigger fish to fry and far more important topics to debate before the midterm elections. National security should be a crucial issue, not setting limits on freedom of religion, yet people blur the two together for reasons I can't seem to comprehend.
Next Week: the year in music, 1990.