To watch the ludicrous defense of the proposal to build what is being called an Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero is enough to make your blood boil if you’re an old-fashioned American.
I qualify that “level” of American, because you’ll hear citizens, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, defend the plan. He says it’s part of our history and heritage to be tolerant of all religions and worship practices. Many agree with him, including New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board, which unanimously approved the plans.
Bloomberg’s political correctness blinds him to the affront the proposal is to the citizens of the city he represents. Indeed, the proposal is a deliberate provocation to Americans with any sense of equity and justice, and that includes me.
In barely a month, it will be exactly nine years since the brazen attack on my – our – country and, indeed, an attack on my city, New York.
I say “my” city because when I saw the plane hit the tower, when I saw the unbelievable destruction that ensued, when I saw people jumping from those buildings, I felt as though a knife had been thrust into my gut.
What, for the militant Islamists was an attack on the United States, our government, our financial center, our military and our way of life, became for me, a personal attack.
I felt violated and incredibly angry and it resulted in a surge of patriotism I didn’t realize was in me. The insolent audacity of the attack struck me to the core and was made worse, because it was in my city, a place filled with indelible memories of my life.
Most people think of me as a Californian. That’s to be expected, since I’ve lived here long enough to consider myself a native. But under this West Coast veneer, I’m a New Yorker at heart.
I took my first breath at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital and spent my first years in the city. Later, I intermittently lived in New York as my varied career progressed.
My parents were savvy and raised me to be a self-reliant city kid. I have a picture of me at age 4, walking alone to the corner deli to get an ice cream. I was proud as punch that I was such a “big girl” that Mom let me do that.
Of course, she kept a sharp, but secret, eye on me – and, after all, she did take that photograph – but she wanted me to learn the city-kid independence I’d need as an adult. Those lessons stayed with me and no doubt contributed to my grit and determination for survival in a tough world.
New Yorkers are basic people, loyal and stubborn. They’ll do anything for you unless you cross them, then watch out. They remember.
New Yorkers are often criticized by Californians as being rude and nasty.
They’re not. New Yorkers are honest and blunt. They’re friendly in the old-fashioned, direct way. They don’t waste time on politically correct nonsense.
Maybe it’s because so many are from immigrant families – people who had the courage to change their entire lives for the prospect of a better future for themselves and their families in a tough city that demands the best from them.
When the militant Islamists flew those planes into the World Trade Center towers and into the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania field, it was a blatant attack on our entire country and all it represents.
When those attacks resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 innocent, civilian Americans a line was crossed that needed response. This was not just a slap at a giant that would be tolerated because we’re such “nice” people.
“Nice” perhaps, but not stupid. Americans are smart enough to know when they’ve been had and smart enough to know a comparable response is required.
New York had a mayor then, Rudy Giuliani, who knew what to do when a Saudi prince offered the city a $10 million check. He said, “no.”
He knew, as any New Yorker would, that he could not, would not, be party to 30 pieces of silver. As an American, as a New Yorker, he knew a bribe wouldn’t lessen the import of the attacks. He knew where to draw the line.
So now, nine years after the attacks, after those deaths, illnesses and family disruptions, after the war in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan with injuries and loss of young American lives, after further militant Islamist attempted and successful attacks in this country and the successful incidents in other countries, and after the resulting dramatic changes in our lives – we’re being challenged with a deliberate provocation by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to construct a 13-story mosque on the site where one of the World Trade Center plane engines crashed to the ground.
We don’t even know who’s providing the $100 million for the project.
For those who say it will enhance cross-cultural understanding, I say, “nonsense!”
There are many other locations in Manhattan where a mosque could be constructed. Those behind the plan are laying a guilt trip on us, insinuating the opposition are racist, Islamophobic bigots.
It’s so easy to call names and demean people.
But New Yorkers won’t stand for it. Legal opposition is under way. Many construction workers say they won’t work on the project. Survivor families are furious, as are patriotic Americans who remember Sept. 11 and those responsible.
Honor and justice do exist.
After Pearl Harbor, we fought a war until the enemy unconditionally surrendered.
After Sept. 11, we entered a war but the enemy is still there and still says we were responsible for the World Trade Center attack!
Unquestionably, if this mosque gets built, it will be proof the enemy won.
For Americans, that would be both shameful and intolerable.