In just a few weeks we will be observing the 9th anniversary of the deadliest attack ever to take place on American shores. We will stare solemnly at the gaping hole of Ground Zero, and the hole will stare back at us, until it becomes clear that we are the hole, and the hole is us – politically paralyzed into stagnation; broken, sad and empty.
The crater in Lower Manhattan has become a permanent aching void, but nature abhors a vacuum and so from its empty depths something must arise. In a near-decade that “something” could have taken the form of a park, or a memorial, or a glistening new tower, and the construction of a mosque two blocks thence would have been nothing more than a reinforcement of the notion of American Exceptionalism and what Madeline Albright called The Indispensable Nation, and the narrative would have been a stirring one:
“. . . brought to her knees, Can-Do America has rebuilt and moved on; a proposed mosque two blocks from the new construction only emphasizes her broad shoulders, her self-assurance, her commitment to liberty; it demonstrates to the world the strength that America draws from her own character and constitution, and from knowing who she is . . .
All of that would have been a psychological victory over the spectre of terrorism; it would loom large in the minds of the world and a mosque built in its shadows would only be a mosque, unremarkable in a nation dedicated to freedom of religion.
But because such a narrative does not exist, the American psyche is at a disadvantage, and what should only be a mosque becomes nothing less than a psyops victory for terrorism, a demonstration of divine blessing upon a damnable means of movement: America cannot fill its hole within a decade, but we will raise a mosque in a year!
If Americans can see the psychological victory implicit in such a development, then terrorists–and those who mean no good for the nation–can see it, too. Only the disingenuous politicians and pundits, nobly pooh-poohing the concerns of over 60% of the nation, and labeling them as mere “bigots,” seem unable to see what is before them. People with legitimate concerns about the appropriateness of a mosque being built near a wound so unhealed are being castigated in shrill tones by those who–without a doubt–understood why it was inappropriate for Polish Carmelite Nuns to build a Catholic monastery on the edge of Auschwitz, and applauded Pope John Paul II’s sensitivity in asking the nuns to move.
And this is where our madness is showing. The very people who have no truck with Nativity Scenes in public places at Christmastime are now lecturing the nation about Freedom of Religion. Somehow they want us to believe that a temporary creche displayed in a public space is an insensitive yearly threat to the nation, but that a permanent religious structure looming over our most public failed recovery is neither insensitive nor a threat to our national psyche.
The furor over the Ground Zero Mosque has nothing to do with bigotry – that is just the easy charge some people make whenever they wish to avoid debate and silence opposing viewpoints, even as they proclaim their own flamboyant “openness.” It is not about public space or private enterprise, either. It is about what squabbling, divided and overwrought America’s own inability to rebuild herself portends for her future, and for her whole understanding of herself as a nation.
An exceptional nation leads; it takes a hit, sews the wound and marches on. An indispensable nation dares not dither or it cannot overcome.
Strength or weakness is born in the mind; since 9/11, the American psyche–as manifested in her politics and her popular culture–has been reeling with self-doubt; it has staggered and scattered and turned on itself in a reckless, endlessly divisive attempt to find its bearings. The instinct to preserve the “exceptional” past is battling the urge to ask, “yes, we can, but should we be so indispensable, after all,” and that conflict has infected the whole body, from Ground Zero, to DC, to Arizona, to San Francisco.
A nation on its back with a paralyzing fever is a nation that needs to treat itself with the disinfectant of its own creed, which is its Constitution, and the Constitution guarantees liberty and freedom of worship. But any anti-infectant needs to be taken with care, or it can do more harm than good, upsetting balances and further weakening the vulnerable patient.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
There is a spirit arising from Ground Zero; it is an untethered ghost of American certainties and illusions and it seeks grounding in a solid but safe human understanding, touched with just a little affirmation of its goodness. If it cannot find it within the game-playing rhetoric of political opportunism and elite hectoring, it will gather into its sorrow all of our national lunacy, and will whirl and rise, and whirl and rise, shadowing the mosque that arises nearby.
De Chardin also wrote: “Everything that rises, must converge.”
Our wrecked psyche is peering, wide-eyed and with hands a-tremble, over the edges of an abyss, and the abyss is peering back.
Which is precisely why this mosque needs to be built in New York, but not at the periphery of an unhealed Ground Zero.
Greek Orthodox leaders trying to rebuild the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks expressed shock this week after learning, via Fox News, that government officials had killed a deal to relocate the church.
I like Kathryn Jean Lopez’ take in the NY Times:
I’m a Catholic who sees threats to religious liberty increasing here at home — largely by judicial legislative fiat — and I’m earnest about ensuring its protection for us all.
But I also think that to build an Islamic center near ground zero is an imprudent move. If Islam had a pope, he might advise the Cordoba House developers as much, just as the late Pope John Paul advised Polish sisters not to build a convent at Auschwitz (my friend Bill McGurn wrote well about this in The Wall Street Journal). It is not a surrender of freedom to be sensitive. It is, in fact, a reverent exercise of freedom.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan tactfully offers any assistance he can give
Saudi Funding a possibility?
Is all of this controversy due to a lack of statemanship?
Is there no one left to investigate?
Do we really want to open this can of worms?
I thought he was just a stupid moron nazi panderer?
Which is it, Nancy?
Are questions allowed?
Is the site too raw?
Some pols not playing football with this?
Like Some Audio?
Have we Forgotten How to Be Big?
Parsing the Pander?
“hallowed ground” or not?