Sacred ground

August 14, 2010

I was glad to hear the arguments of Obama and Bloomberg regarding the mosque and community center planned for downtown NYC.  At first, I thought it was a bad idea although I didn’t think it should be stopped in any way.  I thought it was bad because I thought it was part of the WTC redevelopment plan, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would be so silly as to include an Islamic community center as part of the memorial. 

Well, I was totally wrong!  It has nothing to do with the memorial.  It’s an independent organization that has existed for years, as have several mosques already in the downtown area, and they were looking to expand and provide more services.  Full steam ahead, I say.  The opponents appear to be emotional bigots – it’s really that simple.  Muslim = terrorism, that’s the equation.

One letter in the NYTimes today says that it’s stupid to talk of  “abstract principles” like religious freedom in this case.  People are “scarred” by the events of 9/11.  I guess we should just burn the US Constitution then.  Who needs the Bill of Rights?

Another writer said that it’s as if the Germans wanted to build a cultural center across the street from the Auschwitz death camp.  Of course, Auschwitz isn’t located in the densely built downtown district of a major city – it’s pretty much out in the country, and to build a center there would make no sense…except as a provocation. 

Lots of people talk about the horror, the insult, the indignity of a Muslim house of worship in such “close proximity” to the sacred earth of the WTC site.  Meanwhile, the area is thronged with gawking tourists, vendors peddling memorabilia, the most famous discount department store in the world, Century 21, does a brisk business right across the street!!  Can’t they move their emporium somewhere else?  Then we can start banging on Brooks Brothers’ doors.  Let’s turn the whole area into a somber and quiet memorial to that day of horror…oops, forgot about the hi-rise office towers currently going up on the site…

Legal Technicalities

April 4, 2005

One of the most irritating of the whining complaints from so-called conservatives is the charge that criminals are always getting off scot free (nothing to do with Scotch people!) on “legal technicalities.” Let’s not get into the issue that most people before the bar on criminal charges do not have access to slick lawyers who are ready to bufuddle the witless judges and police whom these law-and-order advocates assume make up our justice system. No, most cases are just plea-bargained anyway. But some people do get off because of legal issues or irregularities, so what of it?Well, those technicalities are not the trivial and useless impediments to Solomonic distribution of justice which the State would carry out were it not for that pesky Bill of Rights. No, they protect us all. (Rather like the Geneva Convention on Prisoners, which, as Kerry pointed out, protects our prisoners. Stalin didn’t sign the Geneva Convention – he wanted to work German prisoners to death as slaves. As a result, the Nazis returned the favor to Russian POWs. This fact, amply documented, is recounted in many memoirs of American POWs who caught a glimpse of the Russians in the camps.) If you decide to grant full legal rights only to the innocent, or those you feel are innocent, then you’ve already given up the game to the the prosecution. The job of the state is to prove its case – you are assumed innocent – and to prove it according to the rules. Breaking the rules is a no-no, for good reason. It becomes a habit.

It boggles my mind to hear people complain about these “technicalities” and to call themselves conservatives in the same breadth. Haven’t they read the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence? What are they trying to conserve, if not that?

This issue comes up over and over, in discussions of domestic crime, human rights (why do those rights groups complain about the treatment in prison of people who very likely have committed atrocious acts?) , and especially, the American Civil Liberties Union and its activities. The point is very simple – by protecting the civil rights of us all, even those of us who are repulsive in some way, we protect the rights of us all, especially the innocent and virtuous who may fall afoul of the good opinion of the State, or the majority, from time to time. Only the smug, the stupid, and the self-righteous imagine that they could never be in that position, even in principle.