Ground Zero, High and Low

I’ve avoided writing about this whole “ground zero mosque” fiasco simply because I was hoping it would drop out of public conversation. Seriously, you’re going to object to a house of worship in an American city? On patriotic grounds? Really? I hesitate even to link to these fearmongers, for fear of enhancing their cause. The whole thing is based on the myth of the “war of civilizations” between America and Islam, and the further myth that Islam is violence, is inherently anti-American. I’m frankly so weary of debunking these myths that I defer, rather proudly, to my ever-pragmatic mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose famous crotchiness reportedly broke down in this case. Here’s a quote but it’s worth reading the whole speech.

“On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold?’  “The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

And on the low-brow end, I’m also enamored of new favorite blog The Awl’s tour of the ho-hum New York block which has spawned the political firestorm.  Not to mention their list of 39 different pundits describing the proposed mosque’s location. Is it two blocks away or three? And what is “ground zero,” exactly, anyway?  I walk past 51 Park Place whenever I transfer from the A or 1/2/3 train to the PATH train on my way home to Jersey City, and it never looked like the end of the world to me either, just an unassuming building on a street that’s seen better days.  Still, I’m starting to develop a fondness for the place, a protective urge I might have felt had I been neighbors to Elian Gonzalez, or Terri Schiavo, or any other struggle that should never have become a political talking point.

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