A friend sent me an email this morning, one that I have declined to answer or forward. It contains a statement from Newt Gingrich from July of this year.
Newt Gingrich's statement reads, "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . " It goes on to impute evil intent to the builders and supporters of the mosque and to imply that it is being built to create inroads in America for Muslim extremism. For jihad.
Dear Newt Gingrich: Of course there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. Saudia Arabia is not America. We? you and I? We live in a democracy based on freedom and liberty. We don't operate like Saudi Arabia because we are NOT Saudi Arabia.
We have a constitution that guarantees us freedom to practice (or not practice) any religion we choose. In fact, Mr. Newton Leroy Gingrich, your own website, on the page devoted to Religious Liberty, states:
"Religious liberty in America is under assault. The secular socialist left – who hates the idea of an authority higher than the government - has used its domination of academia, the courts, and the media to twist the meaning of the first amendment from a right that protects religious liberty to prohibition on religious expression in the public square. The consequence of this campaign is that people of faith have been systematically marginalized in America through a sustained effort by the left to change our common culture and give secular values the authority of law."
Let me see if I understand this, Newt Gingrich. You are implying here that the government should be protecting our First Amendment right to religious freedom. And yet, your statement regarding a Muslim cultural center and Mosque at Ground Zero implies that you do not believe Muslim Americans are entitled to the same First Amendment rights as you and I.
The moment you request that any local or federal government block the building of a mosque in America, you are in effect demanding that we violate the First Amendment.
What happened on 9/11 was horrific, unbelievable, tragic. The people who were in those towers were of every race and religion. I'm not sure if people are even aware than in the Twin Towers, on the 17th floor of the South Tower, there was a room set aside as a prayer room for Muslims. That's right, a prayer room for Muslims. Observant Muslims, not jihadists, who happened to be in the towers going about their work just like everyone else, who died or managed to escape with their lives when the terrorists attacked and the towers fell.
I was in the final weeks of my first pregnancy on September 11th. I was working for an insurance company in Neptune, NJ, and my manager's husband was on the 104th floor of the South Tower. She did not know until after 3PM on that terrible day whether he had lived or died. He survived, though many did not. J was also working for the same company, and until the company released us to go home, I spent most of the day going back and forth between my floor and his, to see if Kim had heard anything about her husband and then going to give and receive hugs from my husband because I could.
I hate the terrorists who planned and carried out the attacks in New York and Washington DC on September 11th. I cannot understand the mind and thinking of any person who hates another person or a group of persons so much that they would give their own lives to see them dead. But whether I hate them, whether I believe they were wrong, whether I think that anyone who carries out a terrorist act should die for their crimes (I do), I am still capable of separating jihadists from peaceful Muslims. Just as I am capable separating Catholics from people like Timothy McVeigh, Christians from people like James Kopp, Scott Roeder and others like them.
The anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country has risen to a terrible screech. It calls to mind the McCarthyism of the late 1940's and 1950's:
Remember our treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII? We are still making reparations for that.
Hate rhetoric is disabling this country piece by piece. There is no logical, lawful reason for it, and yet it continues. If it is not toned down, if the people who are spreading this hate like a black poisonous cloud over our airwaves and on our street corners do not stop, I fear it will take root and rise up like some awful, tentacled Beast from hell, taking what is left of our humanity right along with it.
I have not responded, cannot respond to the email I received this morning. The person who sent it to me is someone I care for, she is the close relative of someone I care for even more. I don't want to have this argument with her. It is heartbreaking to think that someone I know and like can even think about participating in this campaign of hate and lies. But there it is. People I know, people I even like, they may think this way. I could weed them out of my life, but would I just be closing my eyes and ears to what exists? Or is there some way that I can reach out to them, not in anger but in love, not in the arrogant belief that I can change them, but in the hopeful optimism that the God I believe in, who loves us all, who cares for each and every person in His creation as if they were his own child, that maybe He can reach them, even if I can't? Maybe.
I keep wondering when God is going to come and save us from ourselves. Soon, please.