Religious bigotry

I’m feeling burdened by the bigotry and ignorance of people who are objecting to the Cordoba Institute’s community center (and yes, mosque) at a location in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center. (The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”)

Although some of the rhetoric has de-escalated to “they may have the right to build it, but it is insensitive,” I find that most of what is said is out-and-out religious bigotry. People who say Western Civilization is built on Judeo-Christian ethics. People who call Muslims ragheads. I won’t link to it, but if you search for “Joseph Phillips Ground Zero Mosque” you’ll find an opinion essay with this ugly morsel:

There is a small segment of the left that simply hates America. There is no other way to describe it. These hard-core leftists do not respect America’s traditions or institutions, so they are comrades-in-arms with any force that seeks to undermine or insult those institutions and they rush to stand in opposition to anything that smacks of patriotism or national pride.

If you read the version that’s at bighollywood, you’ll find a commenter named “TrueBlueMormon” who defends his use of the term “ragheads” by saying “facts are facts, they do wear rags on their heads, it is a cultural thing.” Well then, I suppose he won’t mind when I refer to his magic underwear. The irony is so, so sad.

But my support for the Cordoba Institute’s community center is not just a reaction to know-nothings, xenophobes, and religious bigots.

I support the community center because local government is an American value. The elected regulatory boards and the mayor of New York City have approved and defended the community center construction.

I actually think that most Americans treat private property as an idol, but since the laws do, indeed, tend to privilege private ownership over public good, then those laws should be equally applied.

I support the community center because freedom of religion is a bedrock American value. I support the community center because this is the result of not supporting freedom of religion:

statue of Mary Dyer by Sylvia Shaw Judson

That is a statue of Mary Dyer by Sylvia Shaw Judson. It sits just down the street from where I work, in front of the Massachusetts State House. Mary Dyer was hanged on Boston Common on June 1, 1660 for being a Quaker. She had earlier been sentenced with William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, who were hanged on October 27th, 1659.

Joan Walsh has written a wonderful essay reminding Roman Catholics of their history in the United States.

Until today, I had always thought the belief that Catholics couldn’t be “unambiguously Catholic and American,” or that the Catholic Church had “illiberal tendencies,” represented prejudice, the kind of prejudice that collided with and eventually gave way to American ideals about equality and religious freedom. I didn’t realize my people had to be “inspired” into fully embracing “the virtues of democracy” by Nativists, often by violence: from Charlestown, Mass, where Nativists burned a Catholic convent in 1834, to Philadelphia in 1844 (where thousands of Nativists attacked Irish Catholics, derided as “scum unloaded on American wharfs,” burned Catholic churches and convents, invaded the homes of Irish Catholics and beat residents), to St. Louis, where a Nativist riot against Irish Catholics killed 10 and destroyed 93 Irish Catholic homes and businesses, or Louisville, Ky., where Nativist mobs killed at least two dozen Catholics on “Bloody Monday,” Aug. 6, 1855.

There are, sadly, two American approaches to freedom of religion. I’m glad that the one that hangs people of other religions and burns down their houses of worship lost. I support the Cordoba Institute’s community center because all the arguments I’ve seen against it boil down to religious intolerance at best or religious bigotry and hatred or worse.

I may be dim

. . . but isn’t boarding a ship in international waters (by dropping from a helicopter, no less) an act either of piracy or of war?

I acknowledge the right of Israel to decide who and what can enter Israel, and what ships can enter Israel’s territorial waters or dock. I find it incredibly offensive, however, for Israel to attack ships while still in international waters and then say its soldiers were firing in self-defense when they killed civilians on board those vessels. If Israel wishes to continue its blockade of Gaza, it must do so within its own territorial waters. End of story, as far as I’m concerned. (Except, of course, that the relationship of Israel to its non-Jewish citizens and to the residents of the territories it occupies is a terrible, seemingly never-ending story of evil behavior from both parties that appears to be making Israel into an Apartheid state.)

We need to build a parallel system

Robert Paterson has one of the most consistently bleak yet optimistic takes on reality that I’ve come across. Today he critiques the economic system we live in as being dominated by finance to the detriment of “making and doing things that benefit us really.” He looks to the end of the Soviet Union and of the Raj for solutions.

What worked was that they then stood aside and built a new system in parallel. That worked.

Gandhi took the same path in India. How was he to get the Raj to leave? He could not take the British on directly. He could not persuade them morally. What he had to do was to help the mass of Indians recognize that THEY did not need the Raj any more.

So what to do? I think that we have to disengage from the system and start to engage with each other. We have to start in our small local way to build a paralel system that works for the planet and for people

Is there a food shortage?

The root cause of hunger and famine is rarely crop failure alone. It is about who controls and benefits from the land and its resources. About 1 billion people, or one in six of the global population, go hungry today, even though more food is being produced than ever. And yet, around the same number of people are overweight or obese and likely to have their lives cut short by diet-related disease. We have, in other words, a food system that is failing.

via Famine is the result of a failing food system | Felicity Lawrence | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

The source of democracy

I couldn’t put it better myself:

Haven’t we learned and understood that democratic processes and civil societies need to come from within? Democratic governments and liberal economic policies can’t be forced on to a nation from the outside, however desperately they may need it. No, these things must come from within. Without the domestic demand for civic organizations, liberal economic policies and free rights, there is no point in trying to force the issue. You can only encourage the society to structure a framework for these rights and ideals.

And no, it’s not about Iraq. This is from one of the comments on Are aid donors now running Haiti?.