Friday, August 20, 2010

Aude Sapere

Back in the day (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I contemplated a career in journalism. Took journalism in high school, served on the school newspaper, studied a little bit of journalism in college, then took another route. Gotta love all the routes that sprout up in life, because the alternative is to cry about them.

Still, the one thing I remember from my very brief foray into journalism is that reporting the news should be done in a fair, balanced and unbiased manner. Lately, I've come to the conclusion that this "rule" is more of a "guideline" and is often ignored. Things are not black and white, never have been. There are more shades of gray, I think, than any other color in the spectrum. And when personal beliefs and emotions come into play over a topic, then finding an unbiased accounting is next to impossible. I am trying my level best to present a balanced, fair, unbalanced perspective here, but yeah, I think you'll be able to figure out which way I lean on this topic. (Do follow the links. I was going to include them at the end, but when I got there, this post was already long.)

A little dust up on a friend's Facebook post yesterday really drove the point home for me, just how our emotions can spiral out of control, especially when coupled with our personal beliefs. She posted, as is her right, that she's flying the American flag to oppose a Muslim worship center at Ground Zero. I get that. I totally understand. Do I support the opposition to this Muslim worship center? I won't post a flag, as is my right, to oppose it. Why? Because, there's this pesky little thing called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One of our rights as Americans is the freedom to practice our religion. This means our right to be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, Mormon, or a member of the Church of the Almighty Hostess Ho Ho if that's what we chose to do.

Conservatives are wailing that the United States is essentially going to hell in a handbasket with President Obama's policies, the perceived socialization of our country, among other things. Gee, that's a new one, the socialization of the United States. No one has ever thought to do that before, have they? ... ... ... Oh. Wait. That guy, that one President who was elected to an unprecedented four terms. The Prez, the name Franklin Delano Roosevelt comes to mind, who saw this nation through, what was it...Oh! Yeah. The Great Depression! Folks, here's a news flash---you may wish to brace yourselves. We ALREADY live in a socialized country. I'd like to do more research on the topic, but how are today's programs designed to help us through this "Great Recession" much different than what FDR proposed and put in motion? Alphabet soup, anyone?

There's no faster route to hell in that proverbial handbasket than to ignore our basic freedoms and rights at citizens of the United States of America. PERIOD.

But back to that dust up I mentioned above, before I rabbit-trailed it through the daisies. There are those who believe (and posted) that it's insensitive for the members of this Muslim worship center to go ahead with their plans. After all, Muslim terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and one hijacked plane went down in Pennsylvania thanks to the efforts of the American patriots aboard who realized what was happening and paid the ultimate price to ensure that that particular plane wouldn't make its destination. Tarnishing ALL Muslims with that brush is ludicrous. They aren't all guilty of the crimes of a few fanatics. It's like saying, "Well, you know, all Catholic priests molest little boys" because of the actions of the few who actually do. By following the logic that it's insensitive of the particular Muslims in New York to build a worship center close to the hallowed ground of Ground Zero, it's also insensitive to build Catholic Churches near schools and playgrounds where there are children. Or is it okay for the Catholics to build their churches and worship centers near where so many of "their" victims can be found because they are a Christian religion?

Folks, going to church on a regular basis doesn't make one a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes one a car, or swimming underwater makes one a whale.

If it applies to one group, logically, it should apply to ALL.

Oh. Wait. I'm going on the assumption that life is fair. Another news flash. Life ain't fair. Anyone who told you it was lied to you. If life were truly fair, we'd all be tall, skinny, fabulously wealthy, with preternaturally white teeth. There would be no disease, no starvation, no wars, gay people could be legally married here in the States (because gay people have just as much right to enjoy the benefits of marriage, and the miseries of marriage, just like straight people do). I'd like to take this moment to add, since I'm here, that sexual orientation doesn't make one any less deserving of basic consideration and rights as everyone else. Why should straight people be the only ones to suffer the the trials and travails of marriage? Who are we, ultimately, to decide what kind of love is "right" and what kind of love is "wrong"? I'm pretty sure that gay people feel just as deeply, love just as deeply, as straight people do. Gay people are just as human as straight people, and Muslims are just as human as non-Muslims. What a shocking notion.

It was stated on my friend's American Flag post, after I posted the following, that another poster couldn't understand how people like me think. (Seriously? Because I honestly can't understand how people who don't think like me think, but that doesn't mean I don't think "they" can't have a point or have something valuable to add to the discussion.) The lead-in involved the word "insensitive", which I read as being applied to me. As the conversation ensued, it became apparent that's not what was meant, labeling me and people who "think like I do" as insensitive, but it IS a great object lesson for us to remember to consider how our words are taken, even if the implications drawn aren't what we intended at all to convey.

ME: This makes me very sad. I do understand why many feel this way on this subject, but I'm still saddened.

FRIEND: Sorry it makes you sad, I really am. But it makes me sadder to think how it's hurting all the 9/11 families : <

ME: I'm going to google (did, linked--found some news articles, some editorial pieces) to see how many 9/11 families have expressed an opinion on this subject, one way or the other, because I've heard nothing but how this proposed mosque is hurting 9/11 families, but haven't seen any actual, first-hand news on it, other than a Mr. Olson whose wife was on the plane that went into the Pentagon doesn't oppose this. It seems to me that the perpetuation of anger, hatred and intolerance, of a similar ilk that led to the attacks of 9/11, would hurt us all as survivors MORE, because in the end, how does it make us better or more enlightened than those who terrorized us? How are we showing and living our "Christian values" by perpetuating the anger and hatred?

And yes, I *do* know how hard 9/11 hit us all as a nation. My husband completed a detail to DC (before we moved out that way the following year, arriving in DC on the 1st anniversary, actually), and came home on 9/8/01 on an American Airlines plane. Thisclose was close enough for me. The "could have been" was every bit as scary to me. And still is. The worst would've been knowing Mr. Laura was on one of those planes. 2nd worst was one of my sisters calling me on the phone in tears that morning and demanding I tell her he wasn't. Third worst? Listening to the deejay on my favorite radio station reading out the names of the victims each and every 9/11 I lived in MD, usually I was in the car, having taken kids to school. Hard to drive when you can't see through the tears.

ME:I also think that if we don't find a way to heal, to get through our fear, then the terrorists win. Every time we react in fear because we hear "Muslim" or "mosque", for example, they win. I can't honestly say that I want them to win. If we don't turn the other cheek, truly practice what we, as Christians, preach, we're only hurting ourselves. And gives those who enjoy watching us twist and turn in fear and anger just exactly what they want. It only weakens us further.

*Putting the soapbox away. Sorry, didn't mean to drag it out.

A couple more comments followed, the one I took as chiding me for being insensitive and stating she couldn't understand how "people like Laura think" (I think with my brain, pretty much like I imagine most everyone else does). I followed up with what can only be described as an emotional response. I mean, wouldn't you if you perceived you were being labeled as insensitive?

ME: I'm not insensitive about this and rather surprised to be labeled as such. I truly do understand and respect everyone's feelings on this, I really do. No, I'm not delighted with the location of the mosque. Devil's advocate here (make of that what you will), but wasn't it there BEFORE 9/11--don't they own that property? Is there really anything we can legally do to stop this from happening? I have to wonder what all this anger and hate is getting us? What is it doing to and for us? Anything productive? What are the options we have here for compromise---yes, compromise. Perhaps a property swap to move the proposed mosque further from Ground Zero, which, by the way, I have seen--Ground Zero, that is. I have been on the ferries that got people off Manhattan on 9/11. I've seen the altered skyline. I've seen the hole in the ground with the metal beam jutting up like a cross. I read the timeline that lines the top of the chain link fence around Ground Zero. Damned hard to read through tears, incidentally. I've seen the flag from the Pentagon. Went weak in the knees in grateful relief to learn that the daughter of one of my father's friends missed being killed at the Pentagon because she was on maternity leave. I've walked through the exhibit at the History of American History in DC. where there were such artifacts as the helmets of the fallen fire fighters, twisted metal support beams from the Twin Towers, and video on display in a room as silent as funeral home, where I wasn't the only visitor there crying silently and unashamed of the tears that ran down my face. Yeah, I'm a totally insensitive beeyotch.

Again, I maintain the terrorists win because we're reacting just like they want us to. That is beyond unacceptable to me.

I'm also not delighted that the first amendment rights of all Americans, whether they're Christian, Hindu, Muslim...etc. to practice their religion freely is being trampled. Being a Muslim doesn't automatically make one a terrorist any more than attending church every Sunday makes one a Christian.

And yes. HEAL. As best we can. As my grandparents' generation had Pearl Harbor to deal with, 9/11 is our generation's cross to bear. The world will never be the same. I get that. Boy, oh boy, do I---as the mother of 3 sons---absolutely get that. My concern is for the lesson I am teaching my children, for the world which I'll leave them when I'm gone.

If we can't live by the ideals upon which this country was founded, what do we have? What did our nation's fathers fight for? What was the point of them putting their lives on the line to found this country? Life is too precious and fleeting to live in anger, fear and intolerance. Period. Again, because the terrorists win if we do. Again, unacceptable to me.

Now I'll just take my insensitive self back to the rock I crawled out from under and zip it.

From there, the conversation moved to "Gee, that's not what I meant, I wasn't calling you insensitive", and, having not been raised by baboons, I immediately apologized on my friend's post AND sent a private message to the poster for the misunderstanding. A very brief dialogue opened, privately, between us, and it really drove the point home for me that while we stand on opposite sides of the issue, are not of the same political leanings, ultimately, our basic goals for our nation are the same. Quite simply, we want what's BEST for the United States of America. Doesn't matter that we may disagree on what we consider to be "the best"---our intentions are exactly the same.

Wow. Imagine. A conservative leaning woman and a liberal leaning woman finding common ground. When the accusations stop, the name calling, the chest beating, the expounding of ideology's right there. We have the same intentions underneath it all. Imagine what we could accomplish if we could all learn to share our toys and play nicely in the sandbox together---We'd truly be an awesome force to be reckoned with in the world again.

The following is just an opinion---mine, obviously.

When we ignore the basic rights this nation was founded upon, we're in dangerous territory, far more dangerous and upsetting than the location of a Muslim worship center, far more dangerous than the politicians in Washington DC or the perceived dangers of the current administration and past administrations. How can we forget the Pilgrims, who braved an unknown ocean and faced a brand new-to-them world with dangers---real and imagined, to come to the shores of what would eventually become the United States of America, in order to practice their religion without fear of persecution, for example? While I do believe the location of the worship center is unfortunate, I also think it's symbolic of way more than the devastation and tragedy of 9/11. I think by letting it go up, we're taking back a bit of our own and shouting, "See? We don't like the location, but in this country, everyone has the right to practice their religion...and WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF YOU!" Do I think the worship center is an affront and a slap in the face to the victims and survivors (which, incidentally, we ALL are)? Hmmmm...That's harder. Personally, I wouldn't want my death mourned to exclusion of all else or diminished by negative emotions. "Remember me with smiles and laughter, For that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember with tears, Then don't remember me at all." I think the best, most respectful tribute I can offer to those we lost is to refuse to live in fear, anger, hatred and intolerance. That's not the legacy they left us, it's not a legacy I want to leave to my children. And since they aren't here to ask them how they feel on the topic, we can only speculate for them.

The Constitution was written in the age of and by men of the Enlightenment. From the linked Enlightenment page: "Immanuel Kant expressed the motto of the Enlightenment well -- "Aude Sapere" (Dare to Think!)."

G'wan. I dare ya.



1 comment:

Laura Hamby said...

Found this article this afternoon: