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General Interest, Politics

THE HALLOWED GROUND BUSINESS

So this dopey mosque issue near the site of the World Trade Center atrocity has the whole friggin’ country up in arms now, even people who never stepped foot in New York City, long-distance carpetbaggers claiming “hallowed ground” they’ve never seen, either before or after the 9/11 attack, much less bought a falafel from one of the local Muslim street vendors.

Tourists still pack the area, every one of them wanting to take a peek at Ground Zero to try to understand what it was like, to reconcile the horrific news footage seared into the whole world’s mind. In a sense, they have a powerful claim on Ground Zero, and a very real connection, both Americans and foreigners alike.

While New Yorkers endured the attack and lost so many, what we forget is that the rest of the world stood still that day, numb and disbelieving, riveted to the images of the capitol of Earth being so shockingly and devastatingly attacked. There were no other headlines or lead stories anywhere that day.

The jets crashing, the towers burning, people jumping 100 stories to their deaths, and the final, stunning twin collapses were followed in real time everywhere, and everyone stopped whatever they were doing to watch in disbelief. It was a day that will go down in history for as long as there is history.

The nearly 3,000 deaths were far lower than originally estimated, thanks to hundreds of fire fighters, police officers and many others who sacrificed their own lives to perform the greatest evacuation and rescue operation since Dunkirk. Ten times that number was considered a conservative estimate that day, when no one anywhere seemed to know exactly what was going on.

The New York City government was nearly crippled and very little real information was forthcoming, only scattered pronouncements and speculation on the part of the news media, and this went on for most of the day. The president was flying around incognito somewhere and the vice president took over, lower Manhattan was disaster area and cell phone service was knocked out.

Rumors of a dozen or more such jets were rampant, and the Air Force was reportedly hunting hijacked aircraft with missiles. The Pentagon was in flames and the crash landing of the 4th jet in Pennsylvania was thought to be  caused by our military. The uncertainty and chaos were terrifying.

A whole lot of people had a loved one who worked in the area, and the TV footage looked like no one could have survived anywhere near the collapsing towers. No one panicked but tension and confusion were everywhere, and a feeling of helplessness. So many wanted to help, to do something, but only police, firefighters and proven rescue experts were allowed near the site.

The city held its breath and waited for their land lines to ring. There were block-long lines for pay phones in Manhattan, people waiting to call their families to tell them they were okay, and to please call everyone else, there’s people waiting. Three thousand families never got that call.

We mourned our dead and still feel their loss. Wars were started to avenge them, grand pavilions planned in their memory. Services are held on each anniversary, and the wound still feels fresh. For most, there were little or no remains, loved ones incinerated to dust. Ground Zero is the only grave they will ever know.

Too bad these victims have now become political footballs, their memorial still unbuilt while their spirits are invoked by cynical fools with political ambitions. This has been going on for years, and now we have this media-driven madness over a planned mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero, right down the street from the Ground Zero strip club, a place where presumably mourners can receive some measure of solace with a lap dance from a naked young lady. To each his own, no?

The story grows more bizarre when it is revealed that the location of the mosque was actually picked by a 19-year old immigrant from Colombia who was hired by the developer after appearing on a reality show. His job was to scout locations for the mosque and he found the Burlington Coat Factory building to be vacant and available.

The deal was consummated and plans made to build the mosque as something called an “Islamic Center,” a combination house of worship and community outreach facility. Lord knows that Islam could use some good PR right about now, and the hysterical reaction to their project only underscores that. Anti-Muslim sentiment has poured out of every corner of this nation, even from people who detest New York City and the big umbrella melting pot it stands for.

Unclear so far is exactly who is providing the funds for this piece of downtown Manhattan real estate, where every square inch of space is worth a  large fortune, even in this depressed economy. Few believe that the Muslim street vendors are footing the bill from the proceeds from the sale of bananas, couscous and souvenirs. This is a big money venture and will require hundreds of millions of dollars to complete. Who’s paying?

While the Imam in charge says he will raise funds from local Muslims and bond offerings, there are rumors of Iranian and Saudi Arabian funding, making the whole thing even more suspect. These are legitimate concerns, potentially dangerous political concerns having little to do with Islam and everything to do with provocation.

Is this what’s happening? Can we be sure? Anyone on the ball with finding that out before we start messing with the Bill of Rights? It’s always the Bill of Rights that stands to take a hit in times like these, with no shortage of media fools and elected politicians sworn to uphold the United States Constitution openly in favor of violating it because a distasteful religion is ruining the neighborhood and the Hallowed Ground trade.

For a story invented and fueled by the media, there are few hard facts available. That’s how out of practice our news media is with journalism, that they can’t even find out the facts on a story they invented. They seem content to report on the shit storm they have created to fill the slow news cycles of Summertime and feel no obligation to dig for facts.

Small wonder fewer and fewer people trust the mainstream media. The impact on New Yorkers’ daily lives by the building of this mosque will be nonexistent. We’re already tripping over a thousand and one houses of worship of every imaginable denomination, barely noticing them as we go about our business.

People swiftly got over the Mormons’ building a tabernacle near Times Square, and nobody likes Mormons all that much, not even their fellow Mormons if you follow their soap opera saga in the news with the lucrative sales of underage teenaged brides to lumpy old Chesters. Times Square survived, and so will Ground Zero.

Few people will bother to notice another temple to a God we all claim as our own as we go about our day-to-day business doing whatever the hell we feel like. Most Americans figure church is for women and religion is for teaching kids right from wrong. That’s not what we say about our various faiths, of course, but what we do, the truer measure of intent.

In Islam, like Judaism, it is the men who take the lead in practicing their faith,  something that makes many Americans uncomfortable. That whole 5-times-a-day praying seems excessive and unseemly, even without the bad press Islam gets from terrorists and religious tyrants.

The fact that Islam is just one more dumbass religion designed to annoy the crap out its believers by giving them a whole lot to do on top of having to live their lives is forgotten in this war of words. Life is hard enough without God, but almost unbearable with Him, because now people feel obligated to defend  their faith and attack the faith of others, not once stopping to think that every faith is founded on some pretty tall friggin’ tales.

That’s why they are called faiths and not The Jewish Fact, the Christian Fact or the Muslim Fact. None of them can stand up to a reality check or ever be proven. Our arguments about God and religion are transparent excuses to dominate one another along tribal lines and to vent our hatred of others. God has always been a handy tool to further these aims.

This Mosque on Hallowed Ground business is just one more example of people using God as an excuse to act like hateful assholes. The 3,000 victims of this religious warfare deserve better. They were real people with real lives and real families, not abstract concepts to be cynically used for our endless debates over the improbable and unprovable. Who cares who else builds what sort of shrine where or who they pray to or how? That’s private.

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