Harry Reid divorces Obama on the New York Mosque situation, as do I; but the pastor Quran burning plot is idiotic

Harry Reid has jumped ship and divorced himself from President Obama on a provocative issue: The Ground Zero Mosque. That’s a big time political divorce.
Reed, who is in a tight race for re-election, basically broke rank and told the world that he is against the Ground Zero Mosque after Pres. Obama came out in support of it. Wow. First of all, I still can’t believe that president Obama walked into that one. He didn’t have to weigh in on it. Why did he do that? Why did he make this local dispute a presidential debate? I’m almost angry with him for doing this. He should have kept his mouth shut on this one.
On the other hand, I get his point. This is the United States and there is such a thing as religious freedom. The Constitution guarantees it. The president is spot on, on paper, that people are free, and should be free, to practice their religion.
But the one thing I’ve learned in life, and as a legal thinker, is that what’s on paper is not necessarily what is done, nor is it necessarily the best thing to do. Once you get out of academia, and you’re in the real world, you really have to apply your street smarts and do what makes sense and forget the books. No, the president should not forget the Constitution. That’s not going to fly. And as I said, he’s right on the books. But he’s definitely wrong an principle. Harry Reid is right to distinguish himself from this particular can of worms.
And let me make myself very clear: Nobody is saying that Muslims can’t exercise their religious freedom. Just not at Ground Zero. Out of respect. Come on, why would they even want to do that? Why be that insensitive? Why there? Why stick that mosque there?  
As someone who was in the first attempted bombing in 1993, I just have to say, I take a different position as the president. He and I are completely divorced from each other on this issue. I mean, I am totally not in agreement with him on this one.
Again, I am forreligious freedom. 100%. I think Muslims should practice their religion just like anyone else. They can build their mosque in uptown Manhattan, Brooklyn Queens, Timbuktu, wherever. But not at Ground Zero. Ground Zero is a unique place. Given the history down there, no Muslim who means well, should have a hard time understanding why there are people in this country who are totally uncomfortable with the idea of a Muslim celebratory hall/mosque/whatever you want to call it, right in our faces like that. Come on!
Don’t tell me that would have been the “Framer’s Intent.” That is ridiculous.
Again, this is not a debate about religious freedom. This is about Ground Zero and it’s immediate vicinities and what that all means and what it stands for. I don’t believe those extremists bombed us because they felt they couldn’t freely practice their religion. They bombed us because we are Americans. Period. They bombed us because they are filled with hate against Americans. And it didn’t matter if we were Muslim Americans, Catholic Americans, Black, White or striped Americans. They just hated Americans. And they bombed us.
Of course I am not saying that every Muslim is filled with hate. But it is not irrelevant that not one Muslim group ever publicly denounced what those extremists did. Not one that I am aware of. So what is that?
Ground Zero is a reminder of what hate can do, and also about the triumph of the human spirit, of the American spirit. It is not a statement about the religious beliefs of anyone in this country. Nobody is saying anything about anybody’s religious freedom at Ground Zero. All we are saying is we are sorry for our fallen brothers and sisters who fell at the hands of terrorists, and we are happy to be alive in spite of the fact that we are hated for being who we are. That’s it.
All those other people who want to make statements about their god, fine. Just don’t do it down here. There are other things I would object to at Ground Zero. Like a jail. I wouldn’t want that, even though even prisoners have rights. I wouldn’t want to see a nuclear plant there either. Or an airport, or a Clan headquarters. Things like that. A mosque is not the same as a jail or a nuclear plant, I realize that. The point I am making, and the only point I am making, is that just because everybody is a free American and can do whatever they want (whether religiously or otherwise) does NOT mean it is appropriate to put just anything near Ground Zero.
That’s the word right there: APPROPRIATE. It is NOT APPROPRIATE to put that mosque there. It is unnecessary and improper, Mr. President, Mr. Mayor, to put that mosque there. It is rude, insensitive, and ill-mannered.
As I said, I get what President Obama is trying to say, and the mayor too, Michael Bloomberg, about religious freedom. But they miss the point. They miss the point, completely. And so, I side with Reid on this. And divorce both Obama and Bloomberg on this issue.
Update: I am TOTALLY against that pastor who wants to burn the Quran on 9/11. That’s just stupid and ignorant and unnecessary and ill-mannered. But it doesn’t change my position on the mosque. Just because we have First Amendment rights does not make our rights absolute. Rights have to be balanced with other interests for the good of all. It’s not just about Muslims wanting to exercise their religious first amendment rights. It’s also about Ground Zero and what it means for Americans who may happen not to be Muslim (or maybe even they are Muslim, who knows?) and who want a place of peace, a place without controversy to commemorate their fallen brothers and sisters without the appendixed nonsense that will come with a mosque being there, and the years, decades of contention that will bring. Rights have to be balanced with other interests, folks. That is just basic common sense.
Same with the pastor. Just because it is not illegal and he has a right to burn a Quran doesn’t make it right or appropriate to burn a Quran. What about the interests of troops whose lives will be endangered? Or folks right here in America if some extremists decide to get violent and blow up a few landmarks? Think, people. Think. On both sides. Think.
In this country, in this world, we have to divorce ourselves from ignorance and stupidity and do what makes sense. Burning the Quran doesn’t make sense. Sticking that mosque in such a contentious spot doesn’t make sense. That’s all I’m saying. And I give all respect to Muslims who want to worship in peace as well. But I think out of a sense of consideration and sensitivity (especially since good Muslims are powerless to prevent unwanted and univited terrorists from also congregating in said mosque and plotting more hellacious crimes against innocent bystanders) they should volunteer to stick that mosque elsewhere. Maybe somewhere far, like New Jersey Shore. Or someplace like that where there are no highrises. And lots of water. I’m just saying.
Originally published August 19 2010
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