Those of us in the "professional left" often lament the timidity and fickleness of our more establishment colleagues. If only they had been more resolute in their self-proclaimed roles as arbiters of truth and reason—the country wouldn’t have fallen for weapons of mass destruction or gone berserk over death panels and deficits. But the furor over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" should shred whatever faith we have left in the mainstream—not in its integrity, but in its power.
The list of establishment voices who have spoken out—often forcefully—against the plainly bigoted crusade against Park51, a k a the Cordoba House, should be daunting. It includes the editorial pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and (grudgingly) the Wall Street Journal as well as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria (who returned an award from the ADL in protest), NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg, Post columnist Kathleen Parker, the American Jewish Committee, J-Street and Iraq war boosters Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinart, whose recent Daily Beast columns put him somewhere just slightly to the right of Noam Chomsky. This honor roll even included, for a brief moment, President Obama, who is now twisting himself into knots trying to retract his retraction of his refudiation of the smear.
And yet—all of this pushback has made not one iota of difference. Over 60 percent of Americans still think an Islamic cultural center should not be built on "hallowed ground", and vulnerable Democrats like Harry Reid are caving faster than a Massey-owned mine on the issue, which apparently erases from voters’ minds the mass joblessness that building more mosques would, in small part, ameliorate. There are even talks underway to relocate the center to a less sacred location—somewhere far far away from the strip club, McDonald’s and off-track betting parlor that currently dignify Ground Zero.
Let’s face it: Sarah Palin’s Twitter account won. Even worse, so did the blogger behind the jihad, Pamela Geller, a woman so unhinged that she can’t even get her birther story straight. (She once suggested that Obama was the love child of Malcolm X.) It’s one thing to see the captain of the football team shrink away from a fight with the undersized school bully. It’s quite another to see him stand up for what’s right—and get knocked flat on his sorry ass.
My fellow Americans—what the hell is going on here? Ok, I excuse the Tea Party and the 18 percent of Americans who think that Obama is a secret Muslim. Prosecuting people who wear tin foil hats for believing in sewer alligators is unfair, and also, somewhat besides the point. But what about the rest of you? Have you been patiently waiting all these years to dump the First Amendment? Or maybe you think it only applies to Christians?
But maybe you’re just slow on the uptake. You see, right now, Muslim-bashing is bad, because not all Muslims are the same, and it’s important to tell the good Muslims apart from the bad Muslims. Also, the Constitution is sacrosanct and applies, yes, even to Muslims. But for the better part of the last decade, the exact opposite has been true. The Muslims who perpetrated 9/11 were indistinguishable from the Taliban and from the Baathists and from the ordinary Afghanis and Iraqis who suffered under their oppression and whose lives we care so much about that we send unmanned drones to bomb them and their mosques into oblivion. The Constitution? That didn’t apply, and still doesn’t, to the detainees at Guantánamo or heck, even to "normal" Americans who might be e-mailing strange places with strange names. Justice and rule of law—well they’re not exactly relevant to the Muslims the Bush administration tortured and whose cases have been swept under the rug by Obama, who said "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." Belief in freedom of expression and devotion to multiculturalism—tell that to Debbie Almontaser, the former principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy who was forced from her job by the same right-wingers behind the mosque mania.
So dear American public, I don’t really blame you. When you show up at Ground Zero armed with crucifixes ready to fend off the dark hordes, you’re just following the old cues, the ones that have determined official state policy since September 11, 2001—revenge as justice; amnesia as progress; dehumanization as democracy. But it’s important to understand something: it’s the third week of August in an even-numbered year, so those rules don’t apply at the moment. The political establishment and mainstream media love mainstream Muslims. Didn’t get that memo, didya? Aren’t listening to those old Queen Bees anymore now—are ya? Like being off the leash—dontcha?
Maybe it’s the establishment, so busy lecturing the masses on the Constitution and Islam, who should be sent back to class instead. Lesson one: the hysteria over the "Ground Zero mosque" did not happen in a vacuum. Lesson two: when you permit and foment the indiscriminate dehumanization of Muslims in the name of 9/11, it is not one bit surprising that the public would view Lower Manhattan as the frontline of a global religious war. Lesson three: the reason you don’t have any power now—when you’ve decided that enough is enough—is that for so many years, you cheered the bullies on. It is not enough to demonstrate occasional courage. In order to regain your authority and honor, you have to show up to more than just one fight.
In the meantime, watch your back. Pam Geller has a slingshot—and she knows how to use it.