Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sects, Lies & Videotape: The Right vs. Your Rights

“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center” – ethics scandal plagued, disgraced former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich

“The entire Obama agenda is frighteningly close to the national socialism policies of Nazi Germany.” – prescription drug fraud arrestee and Republican Spokesperson, Rush Limbaugh

“I’m a Nazi, he's a Nazi, she's a Nazi, we're a Nazi, wouldn't you like to be a Nazi too?” - der Doktor Pepper

Tactic number one in the far-right Republican playbook, this election year, appears to be - if you disagree with them - you’re either Hitler or some lesser ranking Nazi. It’s actually quite interesting, as an entire grading and point system has been developed based on the very same one used by the NCAA to determine college basketball standings. False, utterly fictional, and slanderous Nazi classification has become quite the elaborate, detailed and protracted science. Unstable people generally have plenty of time on their hands to work on such things. For example, the moderate Muslims, much in the headlines today, who already have a foothold in downtown Manhattan and have been a part of that community for years, would be considered more minor Nazis - maybe somewhat of the Colonel Klink variety, but definitely not, a loveable and innocuous, Sergeant Shultz-type. Barack Hussein Obama, the evil foreigner, on the other hand, takes the coveted top spot in the rankings - he‘s Hitler. In the NCAA analogy he, therefore, would be the Duke Blue Devils of American Nazis. If you’re unclear, just assume that, basically, everyone’s a National Socialist except for those on the right, who, ironically, are the ones who have been attempting to chip away at the Constitution and our guaranteed rights and liberties. But that’s okay because - one, chances are they don’t much get or appreciate irony; and two, they’re taking away those liberties in the name of patriotism. The patriotism of disallowing freedom of religion. The patriotism of denying birth-right citizenship. The patriotism of inequality for homosexuals. Someone save us from this perverted notion of patriotism.

Newt Gingrich - whose history of past transgressions, both personal and professional, might keep a more easily embarrassed man out of the public eye - compares the Muslims in downtown Manhattan to the Nazis. It’s a standard kind of political ploy - guaranteed to get a visceral reaction, and to make numerous appearances on the, 24 hour, cable news networks - but it’s also ignorant, irresponsible and inflammatory. At a time when calm debate and civil discourse seems most appropriate, this kind of rhetoric only serves to heighten tensions. Worst of all, this extremely cavalier application of the label, Nazi, does grave injustice to the memory of the millions of victims who perished at the hands of the actual Nazis, and is an insult to their families and legacies. Welcome to August.

August is generally a slow news month. So, it has become a bit of a tradition that politicians, with much indignation, use this period to gin up phony controversies in order to make you distrust and question their political rivals. A year ago, they informed us about Obama death panels and of his Grandma-terminating public health policies. This year, we are to be alarmed about the prospect of militant Islamics establishing a base of operations, horrifically, on the very ground of the terrorist attacks for which they are responsible. The hope is that the vociferousness of the sound and fury will drown out any actual truths or reality that might cut through the layers of deception and distortion. The truth is that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is such a moderate cleric that he is currently on a diplomatic mission with the U.S. State Department. Much as he had done, previously, with the Bush Administration. The truth is that this is such a temperate Muslim sect, that not only are they not controlled by, or associated with, Al Qaeda, but rather, they too, have suffered at their hands. And the truth is that the mosque is, in reality, just a small part of a much larger cultural center which is being patterned after the YMCA and Jewish Community Center. The Cordoba House Community Center is intended to house a theatre/auditorium, a swimming pool, athletic facilities, classrooms and yes, a prayer center. A prayer center much like the one, not two blocks away from the Pentagon, but in the actual building itself, built over the rubble left behind from it’s terrorist attack. Most people didn’t hear about that prayer center. That prayer center didn’t make the news nor did it rile up the populace, because that prayer center wasn’t constructed in a major election year - one in which the Republicans have hopes of winning back majorities in both Houses.

Personally, when it comes to religions, I don’t really have much use for any of them. They tend to stir up this kind of trouble on a fairly regular basis – “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” But, I do believe in my country and its Constitution. (cue up, The Battle Hymn of the Republic) What’s supposed to set us apart, what makes for “American Exceptionalism,” are our freedoms, our sense of fairness, our tolerance and our values. If we compromise those values, even in painful or difficult situations, then we’ve handed a small victory to our enemies and to all of those who don‘t share those same values. It’s fairly easy being benevolent and magnanimous during positive circumstances, but when we are being tested, that’s the real opportunity to prove to the world and to ourselves what we truly are as a nation and a people. Freedom is kind of a complicated and tricky thing - just ask Bobby McGee- but would you want to live any other way? The people in this community are American citizens, and in the end, that’s the only relevant issue.

One final thought - “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States


  1. Well said, and very on point considering this op/ed piece from today's NY Times: