Monday, 13 September 2010

The Middle Ground on Racism

Out of the mouths of the syntactically challenged: Here is an illuminating statement on the fight over Park51, the lower Manhattan Islamic center/mosque.

‘Perhaps we might think of supporting those families on both sides of this issue as all of us are and maybe step back and try to devote a week of peace’. –David Paterson

Thus does our governor-of-record attempt to regain relevancy as the voice of centrist reason: let us all come together and find a compromise solution that will satisfy both sides, comprised of reasonable, well-intentioned people.

How exactly does one situate oneself on both sides of whether worshippers of a given faith should be excluded from a portion of real estate because their religion is offensive to others? How can one be against racism, exclusion and bias and still satisfy those who express and promote these ideas? [Answer: you can’t. Opposing racism will make racists unhappy.]

Paterson reflects the most dangerous aspect of this increasingly successful Murdoch-led campaign against Islam by buckling to prejudice—along with the bulk of his Democratic colleagues—under the guise of moderation and understanding.

Paterson continues to make a fool of himself by trumpeting his idea of a ‘compromise’ solution, namely, moving the Islamic facility somewhere else. He keeps insisting that someone is going to come talk to him about it and having to backtrack on his announcements of these phantom negotiations.

As I am a tiresome old nag, I will repeat the relevant historical parallel: how about a compromise between the well-meaning opponents of racial integration and those purists demanding that black people not be forced to sit in the back of the bus? Maybe a special section in the middle for ‘non-white passengers and those who love them’? That way, no one’s tender sensibilities will be offended—except, of course, those of the non-white passengers.

The grotesque spectacle over Koran-burning has obscured the more insidious seeds of ethnic and religious intolerance planted by Republican opportunists and their echo chamber. Opposition to the downtown mosque and general hostility to Islam is now a badge of patriotism for them, and those who just assembled on the Mall to imitate Martin Luther King see no irony in their quick assemblage of a new hate figure to replace uppity ‘Negroes’.

I biked down the Hudson River greenway last Thursday and observed the Jewish celebrants of their New Year ending their ritual at the waterway. Would anyone dare to suggest that a Jewish temple be blocked from a given site because that religion makes people uncomfortable?

Ironically, Paterson ended his recent comments on the mosque by encouraging New Yorkers to ‘take a break from debating the planned community center in honor of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana’. This just seconds after stating that ‘the opposition [to the mosque] was not just coming from bigotry, that in other words there were legitimate people who were upset by this’.

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