Monday, August 16, 2010

Ground Zero

Ground Zero -- World Trade Center"Ground Zero." What an intriguing term! The term is often associated with the following:

Ground Zero is "often defined as "the surface directly above or below the point at which a nuclear explosion takes place," the term "ground zero" is also used for the site of the collapse of the World Trade Center's twin towers."

Yet, I speak of another Ground Zero. The Ground Zero of which I speak is not the location of where the World Trade Center once stood, and several thousand Americans, and Muslims, lost their lives.

We all know about that one.

And we know, too, that in recent days the proposed site for an Islamic Community Center (also inaccurately referred to as the Ground Zero Mosque), situated a few blocks from Ground Zero, has come under fire, with more Americans opposed to its construction than are for it--some against it completely, while others think it's inappropriate. And, to point out the irony, this growing opposition totally discounts another fact: A building about four blocks from Ground Zero is already home to a Mosque that has resided in that location for years, even before the construction of the now destroyed World Trade Center.

Smelling the blood of a wounded animal, Republicans are already using this oppositional furor to move in for the kill--to score political points, rather than defuse what's fast becoming a controversial powder keg, as controversial as this administration's erstwhile plan to try certain terrorists in New York City, not far from the debris-cleared grounds of the collapsed World Trade Center Twin Towers. The following statement is representative of the position of many, in and out of politics:

"It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero," [Rep. Peter] King [(R-NY] said in a written statement.

"While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque, they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much," he said. "The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from ground zero. Unfortunately, the president caved into political correctness."

King was responding to this statement from President Obama:

"As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

There is another Ground Zero--one infinitely more important than the Islamic Center, and its backers who're resisting the public outcry to cease and desist.

This Ground Zero controversy, true to its original meaning, is quickly becoming "nuclear" in its scope and magnitude, whipped up by the various news media that need controversy to keep us watching their carpet-bombing approach to delivering the news--targeted at times, but massive in their coverage of whatever issues they believe will keep us watching around the clock--even if they're the ones to hype the issues supposed volatility, and to keep them front and center in our attention, whether or not the public has demonstrated an interest in what they're pushing.

What the public get from these news media is manufactured controversy designed to pander to our fears, our anger, and our stupidity--all for the moneyed purpose of keeping their ratings high, and their viewership growing.

Although some may feel that Ground Zero is located in California, the home of Proposition 8 (California's Marriage Protection Act), the controversial anti-same-sex marriage proposition that prospered at the polls although it violated a Constitutionally protected right--equal protection under the law, as provided by the "equal protection clause" of the U.S. Constitution.

"The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that 'only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'"

But this passage wasn't the end, but only the beginning, and it may still take more months, or possibly years, before we know the ultimate outcome: It may take that long for a definitive High Court resolution or, more likely, a Supreme Court resolution.

"United States district court Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010 in the case Perry v. Schwarzenegger.[10] Judge Walker issued an injunction against enforcing Proposition 8 and a stay to determine suspension of his ruling pending appeal.[11][12] The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals continued the stay, keeping Judge Walker's ruling on hold pending appeal.[13]" [ibid.(1]

As explosive as this proposition has been, it's not the Ground Zero of which I speak.

Although some may point to Arizona as Ground Zero, the home of the "Papers Please Law" that was partially struck down, because of certain provisions that could have led to racial profiling, Arizona--despite the call for boycotts against the state--is not the Ground Zero of which I speak. One newspaper editorialist wrote the following, speaking for many who believed that the law usurped Federal Authority and went too far:

"The New York Times, in an editorial: 'We hope this is the beginning of the end of the misbegotten Arizona rules and what they represent. ... Arizona's law is not a case of a state helping the federal government do a job it neglected. It is a radical upending of immigration priorities, part of a spiteful crusade to force a mass exodus of illegal immigrants. ... Judge Bolton's ruling reminded us all of the unacceptable price of the Arizona way: an incoherent immigration system, squandered law enforcement resources, diminished public safety, the awful sight of a nation of immigrants turning on itself. We hope (President Obama) goes on to make clear to all the states that the Arizona way is not the American way.'" [2]

No, Arizona isn't the Ground Zero of which I speak. That Ground Zero is considerably more important, and considerably more far-reaching than a state law's limited reach.

We can debate endlessly the merits of building an Islamic Recreation Center within blocks of Ground Zero, where Muslim terrorists took so many American lives, the rights of states to protect their borders, even if those borders abut the borders of another nation, and the wisdom of allowing same-sex couples the right to marry in the same way that their heterosexuality counterparts are allowed.

As I've said: We can debate these things endlessly.

But, what's not up for debate is the validity and preservation of that other construction that's coming under attack, and is rapidly becoming more and more a Ground Zero all its own--A Ground Zero that has been created as a result of the debates that are now raging in our society--the heated, explosive fervor to change, modify, or reinterpret the U.S. Constitution, now that some of its provisions stand in the way of actions some Americans would like to take, but the supremacy of the Constitution precludes:

Such as the Fourteenth Amendment--which certain Republicans are eager to revisit, if only in their imaginations, as they hope to use the possibility of a reinterpretation of this Amendment to give them a voting edge in the Fall, and to show their opposition to children of illegal immigrants becoming citizens (anchor babies as they're indelicately referred to), by virtue of birthrights--who, upon reaching adulthood, can petition for citizenship for their parents.

"The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by the states in 1868. It reflected Republican determination that southern states should not be readmitted to the Union and Congress without additional guarantees. Section 1 made all persons born within the nation citizens both of the United States and of the states where they resided (thereby reversing Scott) and prohibited states from abridging privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States and from depriving persons of due process of law or equal protection of the laws." [ibid.(2]

Such as the Equal Protection Clause of the aforementioned Fourteenth Amendment--which is cited by proponents of same-sex marriage as their Constitutional grounds to enjoy those rights which are granted to others without cavil, whether or not those rights are sanctioned by the majority.

Such as the Separation of Church and State--which those, Muslim and non-Muslim, who favor building an Islamic Community Center a few blocks from Ground Zero, have solid ground upon which to stand and, from all indications, seem more than willing to stand their ground.

Our Constitutionally protected rights are just that, Rights, and aren't opened to interpretation by any other bodies but the Courts. It doesn't matter how we might individually feel about these Rights, we ought not be able to vote them down, or vote them away, simply because they permit something, or the other, to which we're suddenly opposed. If we can suspend the constitution whenever we choose, or when it's out of favor with the majority, and to encourage others to do the same, then we're not a nation ruled, or guided, by laws, but by the whims of the electorate, and the hubris of legislators. The previously cited Rights have built up a vast history of case law and rulings. These precedences won't be, and can't be, dismissed that easily.

No one can take these Rights from us--not Islamic terrorists, not Muslims, illegal immigrants, or those seeking to have the U.S. Constitution represent them equally. Only we can do that when we take steps to deprive others of these Constitutionally protected Rights.

Rand Paul, the "constitutional conservative," is uncharacteristically silent on this issue. Where is his public stance on the rights of private owners to do what they will with their private property? Why isn't he speaking out about this indignity? It appears that he's experiencing selective amnesia, or that he's not as dedicated to maintaining the inviolacy of the Constitution as he claims, or would have us believe.

But there's another Ground Zero that supersedes our U.S. Constitution and, for many, is always under assault, and under siege, because of various human weaknesses: our indecision, our greed, or our lust for power or fame, or both.

And that's our conscience.

If we were guided by it, and the The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity principle--"Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you"--then such matters that evoke so much social conflict, and contribute to so much social upheaval, such as same-sex marriage, the citizenship of children of illegal immigrants, and whether a Mosque, or an Islamic Community Center can be built near Ground Zero, or any other location, as well as a host of other potentially explosive social issues, would either be resolved quickly--or wouldn't rise to the level of conflict and ill-will to begin with.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] Arizona judge rules. What next?


Greg L said...


I literally watch TV less than 8-10 hours a month, if that. The fare that's being offered is frequently an insult to the intelligence of any thinking person and a medium that could be one of the greatest sources of lifting the intellect and consciousness of the people dispenses ignorance instead. The same can be said of the media as a whole. Increasingly, I get my information from blogs and even one has to be careful of that source. The true acquisition of knowledge requires that we actually participate by thinking rather than having something poured into us to be regurgitated when prompted. The problem in America is that very few people are engaged in thinking. If they were, they'd see that this mosque is a non issue in a long list of non issues that have been bantered about in the press. This is also what makes polling on these sorts of issues very suspect. After shaping an opinion with a barrage of “news”, the poll merely confirms the success of the effort rather than an actual opinion. A true opinion is always the product of thinking.

In the meantime, the real news that actually has out sized impact on the citizenry is not discussed. Our nation's saber rattling with our financier, China, has far more impact than mosque construction. The same applies to a threatened attack on Iran with indirect threats to both Russia and China. Of course, above all, our moribund economic situation has far more import than the mosque or any other bit of popular "news" that's put forth.

The economic elite are in the process of grabbing the people’s money and running, yet their outsized power leaves them in the role of being the gate keepers on the news. I feel that they literally sit around planning the next “non news” story they will run with. You’re right, the real ground zero is the constitution and fair dealing. These are impediments to the designs of the economic elite.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "After shaping an opinion with a barrage of 'news', the poll merely confirms the success of the effort rather than an actual opinion. A true opinion is always the product of thinking."

Why indulge in "critical thinking" when a "knee-jerk reaction" is so handy, and caters to our mental laziness.

How primitive we humans remain when fear, anger, hatred, and other base emotions, can be appealed to so successfully, passing up and over that part of the brain devoted to critical thinking!

I will always contend that Sarah Palin was a media invention. Sure she had some built-in traction by being McCain's vice presidential choice, but without the media she would just be another bring-home-the-moose mom from Alaska, who failed as governor.

Now, She's a media darling, no matter the media outlet.

She has all the right attributes--looks, controversy, and the verve to compete with Rush Limbaugh for the next outlandish conservative comment to draw the media spotlight.

"In the meantime, the real news that actually has out sized impact on the citizenry is not discussed."

How does it go? Out of sight, out of mind?

"You’re right, the real ground zero is the constitution and fair dealing. These are impediments to the designs of the economic elite."

Republicans, a.k.a. conservatives, say one thing and do another. They champion small government, but are notorious expanders of government debt. They champion non-governmental intrusion into social affairs, but are anti-choice, anti-same-sex marriages, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam (No more permits for mosques in this country?), and pretty much anti-constitution, when that document stands in the way of their intolerance and bigotry.

If it's power Republicans want, and are willing to pay any price for, including the further economic destruction of this country to get it, and the defeat of their political rivals, and the president, then, at the end of the day, what do they really have?

Politics as usual is killing this country.

When political decisions are more important than rational, intelligent, decisions, and are given more weight, then it's only a matter of time (perhaps we're already there!) before non-sense eclipses commonsense, and irrationality, rationality.

I guess it doesn't matter as long as rich people remain rich, and we suckers continue to allow our baser instincts to be manipulated and exploited.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

America needs to make a slight change its name to the United Bigots Of America! Smh!

Kathy said...

Black Diaspora, I actually think that the two main points about the Cordoba House are,: this may be fear and backlash due to the recent Times Square bomber,: the iman and/ or Muslims in general do not have enough political power to address these issues.
NYC has at least 100 mosques, no one ever seemd to care before. I have seen Muslim's praying in public in NYC, no one (for the part) most a ever seems to care, I think these are just a way to play on people for political reasons.
I like "the reciprocity principle", it really is a universal ethic, thanks for that, and for continuing to discuss a very difficult issue for me. Thanks.

Black Diaspora said...

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

"America needs to make a slight change its name to the United Bigots Of America! Smh!"

Granny, this world is in for some rough days ahead--and this country in particular.

I've said this several times here and elsewhere.

This bigotry isn't uncommon to these shores, but with the economy being what it is, scapegoats are being brought out to shift our attention from the economic crisis that's looming to matters that shouldn't garner any attention at all.

This ploy only works, and works well, because hearts are predisposed to this bigotry, and the ultimate madness that it brings.

Black Diaspora said...

Kathy said...

"Black Diaspora, I actually think that the two main points about the Cordoba House are,: this may be fear and backlash due to the recent Times Square bomber,: the iman and/ or Muslims in general do not have enough political power to address these issues."

Hi Kathy. Good point about the "backlash." But I'd wish those in opposition would be front and center about it. The "Cordoba House" name has received an airing on MSNBC, that is, the supposed history of the name.

This center is being built, I'm told, to replace the one damaged during 9-11.

That's irony within itself, especially when it's taken with the fact that many Muslims lost their lives in 9-11 attack.

I think it's dangerous for us to blame all of Islam for what happened on 9-11. I can think of no other reason why anyone would object to it but for the belief that all Muslims are responsible for what a few bad apples did on that fateful day.

Further, this anti-Islamization of America movement can get pretty ugly if wisdom doesn't prevail. And those that are using this fear, actually whipping it up more, will live to rue the day of such an inflaming.

Rather than stop these kind of bombings that we saw attempted in Time Square, this backlash will all but assure it--as it gives justification for such future extremist actions.

Another good point about Muslim's lack of "political power." Were they a political force to reckon with, this whole matter wouldn't have risen to this level of dissent that it has.