Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wingnuttery continued

Leave it to Newt Gingrich to say something that makes Ben Stein's attack on the poor I posted about yesterday look entirely reasonable and intelligent by comparison. Hoo boy.

Newt, along with a handful of other Republican types, are all in a tizzy about plans to build a Muslim community center and Mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan. This is an insult to the memory of those who died at the hands of jihadists, they say, and would show weakness and timidity on the part of Americans if the building plans were allowed to go ahead. Actually, Newt's exact words were that it would show "the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites."

Seriously? Seriously. But really, the money shot is this statement: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." I love this. I really do. In effect, Newt is proposing to establish a moral equivalence with Saudi Arabia, who would I think quite cheerfully accept his terms. Newt's upset that Saudi Arabia forbids religious freedom? Excellent—so am I. So do something about it, Newt. Get your Republican friends in Congress to propose sanctions, go to the U.N. and rally the international community behind you to pressure the Saudis to abandon religious tyranny. You do that … I'll be here, totally not holding my breath.

See, this is why the United States' post-9/11 response more or less baffled me. I thought the Patriot Act wasn't an expression of strength, but weakness—a capitulation to terrorism. Why when the right wing went well nigh hysterical at the prospect of the 9/11 plotters being tried in a civilian court in NYC I wished I could go on every Fox News program and demand to know when Americans had become such pussies (Jon Stewart had the best response, as usual—speaking of the fear that the terrorists would be acquitted to walk the streets of New York he said, essentially, "That's what I want them to do!"). Why when, after the Tube bombings in London, I actually applauded when the mayor said (I'm paraphrasing) "We've been through the Blitz and the IRA—you think this is anything new for us?" (A species of the "bring it on" mentality, incidentally, of an entirely different kind that George W. Bush's, which was essentially "bring it on, as long as you do it somewhere we can drop bombs on you").

This is why, to my mind, the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero isn't a sign of timidity or ignorance, but the ultimate expression of the democratic ideal. That, to me, is "bring it on": "You attack us? OK. We're going to build a temple for your co-religionists right by that site. Let's see how that helps your recruitment." As if American Muslims weren't already apostates to Osama bin Ladin. Seriously.

This is all sort of like when Michaƫlle Jean was appointed as Canada's Governor-General, and conservatives went apeshit because she had historical ties to Quebec separatism. Can you imagine a better symbol of unity than someone who has been persuaded of the virtue of a unified Canada?

(Just as an aside, it makes me happy that the closest Canadian analogy I could make here involved a kerfuffle over the choice of Governor-General).

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