Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mosques and Memorials

Maybe I'm just not as sentimental as some people but, generally, I don't invest much reverence in places where people died. Where they lived, yes. Where they accomplished success, yes. Where they made history, yes. But where they died, not so much.

For instance, if I'm killed in an automobile accident, please, please, don't put up any roadside crosses to memorialize the event. Send a bouquet of flowers to some lonely old lady in a nursing home from me, don't stick them into a traffic median somewhere.

Lots of people are killed in vehicle crashes at lots of different locations. If we all keep this up, every trip will soon just be one sad reminder after another. I know it sounds selfish, but I don't really care where your Aunt Sue was t-boned. And I don't expect you to care about my Uncle Bill getting rear-ended either.

I don't go to the cemetery to visit my family members because I don't think anything important that was part of them is there. Their everlasting souls (if there is such a thing) have long departed and I believe they really could care less whether you decorate their grave with plastic blossoms and balloons. If it makes you feel better, there's not anything harmful about it either but I expect if they were watching, they'd just as soon you spent that money to plant a tree or spay a cat.

All of this is, of course, by way of leading to whether it is acceptable to build a Muslim Mosque/Social Center/Whatever at Ground Zero.  To be clear, it isn't at Ground Zero. It is near Ground Zero. As I understand, it is a couple of blocks away. So, I suppose the first thing we have to decide is how near is too near? Two blocks? Obviously? Ten blocks? In another city? Another state? Anywhere in America?

We've diddled around for almost a decade trying to decide what kind of memorial we want to honor our loved ones at the World Trade Center and we still haven't come up with anything we can agree on. Every idea is too big or too small or too low or too high or too dark or too bright.

So, instead of something uplifting and inspirational, what their memorial is going to be is a public airing of our prejudice, a bitter march of narrow-mindedness, an exhibit of our inability to get along. How proud they must be (if, in fact, you believe they are monitoring the situation from above).

Back in America's pioneer days, there was a saying that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." We said it that way because there were some truly bad Indians but we didn't want to bother to distinguish between the bad and the not bad so it was easier to "kill them all and let God sort them out".

That's rather the way we are with Muslims today. Twenty-three per cent of the population of the world is Muslim. There are Muslims in almost every country. Indonesia has the largest percentage with 13 percent of the Muslim population. Fifteen percent live in Africa. Only 20 percent are from the Middle east. China, Russia, England, America all have significant numbers of Muslim citizens.

Like Native American tribes, there are different sects of Muslims. The two main ones are the Sunni and the Shi'a but there are also Sufis and Ahmadiyya and others. Makes your head ache trying to figure out the difference, sort of like our ancestors felt about the Indians, I guess.

So, what let's do is judge them all by the same standard. We will let the however many Muslims who were complicit in the World Trade Center tragedy stand for all the 1.57 billion Muslims in the world. That way we can feel righteous about our decision to deny the Mosque.

We'll worry about what we can to that's positive in memory of our fallen heroes later.