Tuesday, August 31, 2010

on the first amendment and liberty

Over two hundred years ago in December of 1791 the first amendment was born.

Most citizens of the United States know this, but most of us forget how essential and influential this date is in our stories and our lives. This is our liberty. Because of this date, we are free to worship or not worship. Because of this date, I was able to grow up in a loving home that was involved in a local church family. Because of this date, we have the security and freedom to worship whatever or whomever we please. We are who we are and have lived our lives according to this simple premise:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

These words are part of each of our stories, whether we reflect on them often or not at all.

What example and legacy, then, are we setting for our children and our world when we hear the words ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ and vehemently oppose something that we know nothing about? To clear up confusion among those who may not have researched this issue or have only seen clips from the mainstream media, this is not a mosque, nor is it at Ground Zero. Clyde Haberman of the New York Times had a great comment about the significant difference:

“There's that "at." For a two-letter word, it packs quite a wallop. It has been tossed around in a manner both cavalier and disingenuous, with an intention by some to inflame passions. Nobody, regardless of political leanings, would tolerate a mosque at ground zero. "Near" is not the same, as anyone who paid attention back in the fourth grade should know.”

I have seen protesters. I have seen signs written in ignorance and hate. Things like, ‘this is NOT your country,’ and ‘to embrace Islam is to embrace terrorism.’

Do I think it’s the greatest idea to place an Islamic community center in that location? Not necessarily, and that is not my point (nor should it be yours, if I may say so in the most endearing and loving way possible). The point is this. This issue as it is should not even be up for debate. I planned on a lengthy explanation before realizing that unless people are simply daft, all I need to explain is the following:

The moment we can tell a religious group that they can’t build a community center on private property, our freedom is at stake; all of our collective liberties and things our forefathers fought and died for will be in vain.

Your freedom and mine will be forever changed.

If we are to be true patriots, we are to behave as Jefferson said we must and defend and uphold the Constitution. He did not say that we ‘should.’ He said that we must.

Some of the signs of protesters I have seen say things like ‘Build Christian Churches in the Middle East.’ If we are to be the United States of America, a nation that has center stage in the global theater, then we must act accordingly. I vaguely recall something called The Golden Rule, something about ‘doing unto others’… but that must not apply to this particular situation.

I also wanted to somehow incorporate that we have massacred over one million Islamic people for their oil and as punishment for the actions of 9/11. I just couldn’t find a way include it nicely, because it is what it is; the antithesis of nice. Is that not enough ‘justice’ for some? If not, what will be?

Just give me liberty, okay?

While you’re at it, give it to my fellow countrymen who choose a different faith.

I digress.

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.” –Benjamin Franklin.



“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.




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