As we mark the ninth anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11th, I’m proud of this artwork. I produced it for my friend Leo Jodoin and his TV show, Salem Now, which I have been a crewmember for the 13 years it’s been produced. It features the improvised, informal, but now established, 9/11 memorial at Market Basket.
I’m proud of my art.
But I’m not proud of what has become the fetish of worship and hysteria that now defines September 11th.
Over a very long summer, we have been hearing about the imam who plans to build a Muslim cultural center a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center. His plans have gone through and before a large number of boards and commissions in Manhattan, as any other project would.
In Salem, I know this process well, and the Commission on Disabilities is one of the participants in the rituals that developers go through to get things built.
The imam’s project has gone through all the hoops and hurdles in Manhattan. But a lawsuit from one of the relatives of a 9/11 victim is reportedly pending.
To say what I think of this, I need to go back to last spring, when the developers of the Salem Jail wanted to turn the greenspace fronting Bridge St. into a parking lot as a condition for a restaurant on the premises. There was a heavily attended meeting about this that saw nearly all of the neighborhood groups come to testify.
I wrote about what happened in that meeting but I’ll repeat it: A guy from Northfields spoke out against the proposed lot. But more than that, he went into a long speech about what kinds of development would be suitable in the neighborhood.
And he told us that the elderly complex—my building—would not be in favor of commercial development.
I was livid. Beyond mad. Angry. Pissed.
The Northfields guy was telling me and my neighbors what was right for us. I can’t even speak for my neighbors! We have, in fact, been living next to a commercial office building for many years.
Now, how am I going to tell that imam that he cannot build his center because I believe Muslims brought me pain on 9/11? I don’t consider myself to have any standing; as of now, it’s not even clear if the courts will give standing to any relative of a 9/11 victim to bring suit against the organization that plans to build there (a former clothing store that is not even within sight of the WTC block.)
I didn’t like that guy from Northfields presuming to speak for me or my neighbors, so why should I have a position on that cultural center?
There is no rule of law that could enable me to go to Manhattan and stop this. It’s gone through all the permitting down there and that should be that. The First Amendment has no asterisks saying “except some religions we don’t approve of”. (Catholics who oppose the cultural center might want to look at their own history in America first.)
In the next town over, there is a political activist, famous for her anti-tax, limited-government advocacy. She writes for the local daily, whose editorial board shares her opinions. She has spoken out against the cultural center (it is not a mosque.)
Does she really think that is in her limited-government bailiwick, to just reach out and tell a municipality in another state even that they must deny a project just because she doesn’t like it? That is by no means small, limited government!
If she were consistent with her desire for small government and private-sector development (and the imam runs a private organization), she’d advocate for someone like the Koch brothers to buy the Ground Zero site, an enormous parcel of land that much of Salem would fit into, and turn it into a martyr’s center to the sacred 9/11. (Newt Gingrich also wants to “federalize” the site to create such a memorial.)
And that is the other reason I feel shamed this day.
For some years now, the Republican party has become more radical and more religious, throwing many moderate conservatives, particularly those in the Northeast, out the door.
They have all but encouraged Christian fundamentalism. This atheist does not see a lot of distinctions between Al Qaeda’s apocalyptic Islamism, and what Christianism is said to be by many fundamentalist pastors.
Pat Robertson said that “9/11 happened because America looked away from God”. Was God rooting for Islam that day?
A few years ago when Janet Jackson “performed” at the Superbowl, one columnist from a Seattle paper said that “Al Qaeda had a point!” We fear jihad, but we now have our own “prayer warriors” in Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Fist of the North Star.
We all were happy to see the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their theocratic government, brought down. But I’ve come to think that, to prominent Republicans and Christians, amplified by Fox News, the only sin that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have committed is, is doing terrorism in Allah’s name rather than in Jesus’.
I have recalled General Boykin’s words:
.' Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."
And that man was a high-ranking officer in our Army.
We even have our own apocalyptic movement in America. Osama Bin Laden had to inherit his wealth, but Tim and Beverly LaHaye, authors of the “Left Behind” series, have made their millions convincing people that God will take his own people and leave the world to rot for Satan—and that a good Christian should wish for it!
Afraid of violent Islamism? From what rhetoric I’ve seen over the past few years, we have more to worry about from our own people. The Tea Party, whose copies of the Constitution only seem to have the Second Amendment in them, loves its armaments. Prayer warriors, backed up by Browning, Smith and Wesson. Someone flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas.
If Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in OKC today, rather than in 1995, I am certain people would be excusing what he did. “It’s too bad about that dead baby but her mommy shouldn’t have worked for the government!” McVeigh himself would be a prisoner of conscience. Not only would the Tea Partiers call for his freedom but also not a few editorial boards, perhaps even our activist next door.
All because Bin Laden happens to be a Muslim instead of a Christian. I wonder if he’s for limited government in that world caliphate he wants to build? If anyone is concerned about the moral state of the world, he certainly is! He could convert to Christianity tomorrow—as extremely unlikely it may be—and he’d fit right in with some!
That’s why I don’t want to “commemorate” or “remember” or “memorialize” this day. We put Japanese-Americans in camps in the name of December 7th, Pearl Harbor and we were wrong—and we knew it. I don’t want to see what we’ll do against Allah—or for Jesus—in the name of 9/11.
UPDATE: I haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, or heard of it before this week, but Andrew Sullivan reviewed it for Powells a few years back. I’d still like to find it at the library and read it, but from what I read from this review, and other blogs I’ve seen online about D’Souza on his most recent book, he’s virtually shaken hands with Bin Laden, and he recommends his ideological peers in the Republican party do the same. That has only reinforced my commentary.