The beauty of America is its resolute belief in the protection of minorities and minority rights, even in the face of overwhelming majorities. In the U.S. Senate, for example, to close off debate you have to get a super majority of three-fifths or 60 senators to silence the voice of the minority.
There is a reason for this. To protect the rights of the minority is to in fact protect the rights of the majority, and us all.
The latest uproar over the mosque in New York would have you to believe that Al Qaeda is building this religious center, not American-born, New York-born members of the Islamic faith. What appears to be little known is that there are already two similar mosques nearby, and there have been no problems or disturbances.
What is at play here is fear, and fear mongering. And for Republicans to use this as an election issue is deplorable, un-American and speaks of McCarthyism from the days when there were witch hunts to smoke out presumed Communists in America. Republicans are dressing this up by saying it’s the president going against the majority of Americans on whether or not to build a mosque near ground zero.
Being the majority does not mean you are right.
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THE MOSQUE CONTROVERSY:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”38735417^850^182160″ id=”msnbc89bbbc”]
In this instance, the majority of Americans are wrong if they believe that their fellow American citizens—on their own private property—don’t have the right to erect a center that could in the end actually help heal the pain of 9/11. President Obama was right and if he is a man or principle he will not back down, despite what the political winds suggest.
There was a time when a majority of the country thought slavery was a good idea and that black folks should remain in bondage and forced servitude. Thank God (whichever one you pray to) President Abraham Lincoln disagreed with the majority and did the right thing.
A majority of Americans at one time did not think blacks and whites should go to school together, drink from the same water coolers, swim, socialize or even ride together on the bus. Thank God (whichever one you pray to) the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the majority and did the right thing.
A vast majority of white folks in America did not think black people should have equal access to the polls and the unfettered right to vote without poll taxes, or literacy tests, designed to keep them from voting. Thank goodness (for those who choose not to practice a religion) that President Lyndon Johnson disagreed with the majority and did the right thing and pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his reckless clan of do-nothing politicians should resign for digging up old wounds and trying to make this a wedge issue in a hapless attempt to wrest control of the federal legislative branch this midterm election.
I am also terribly disappointed that Newt Gingrich, a man who I once visited and sought help as his constituent in Georgia, when he was a congressman and speaker of the House, would dip so low to compare the builders of this center to Nazis in his most recent comments. Gingrich, a noted historian with a Ph.D. from Tulane, must really want to run for president and feels he must out-exploit or out-talk the rising Sarah Palin, in order to get attention. Well, Newt, Americans who usually excel to the highest office of the land don’t stoop as low as you did in castigating their fellow Americans who have the same birthright as you.
I wonder had the killers on 9/11 been Christians, (remember Timothy McVeigh, raised a Catholic, blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, in Oklahoma City, Okla.?) or orthodox Jews, would there be this outcry. Would there be this dust-up if these were hard-working New York Christians or Jews wanting to build a family Christian Center or a Jewish community center as a way to bring healing to the city of New York?
And as for the argument by Boehner and others who suggest this is not about a matter of constitutional principles, but respecting the feelings of family members and friends? He is wrong there too. As painful as it was for everyone who lost family members and friends on 9/11—this writer included—the upholding of our most sacred document and law of the land, the Constitution of the United States of America, supersedes those feelings—now, tomorrow and forever.
The more than 3,000 deaths were not the only souls lost because America is America, and all that it represents to the world. Have we forgotten about the 50,000-plus who were killed in the jungles of Vietnam? What a about the “boys” who perished in WWII? How about the thousands of who have paid the price of freedom with their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about the blood spilled by those who battled their own family members in the U.S. Civil War? Defending liberty and freedom comes at a cost. The lives of those innocent people in New York, Washington, and in the fields of Pennsylvania that fateful day on Sept. 11, 2001 were precious indeed. But so have all the lives that have been taken during out most precarious of days in the history of this republic.
What makes America great is its ability to be a tolerant nation. A great nation, despite the worst that can be thrown at us, that rises as the beacon of democracy—that remains a “land of the free, and home of the brave.”
To begin to suppress religious freedom now because of a painful moment in our recent history would lead toward the destruction of who we are as a people, a country and a world leader. It would take us down a path of undoing everything hundreds of thousands more Americans have died fighting for since the Revolutionary War more than 200 years ago. Do we really wish to give terrorists that kind of victory? I think not.