Conquering grief and bigotry.
Sunday, August 15th, 2010
It's not always easy to separate personal grief from collective good. In his weekly audio essay, Chris Satullo, says that's especially true when it comes to the legacy of 9-11 and New Yorker 's desire to move on and rebuild.
Controversy rumbles on over whether an Islamic center should be permitted to be built a few blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City.
One school of thought, much vented in the Twittersphere, is that allowing this center amounts to typically weak-kneed, politically-correct kow-towing to radical Islam.
This point of view is pretty easy to, well, “refudiate” – as Sarah Palin would say.
When a nation holds firm to its core values, even when it’s difficult, even when it’s emotional, that shows strength, not weakness. And religious freedom is a core value.
Here’s what’s weak: Tossing aside your values and your constitution every time you feel any sense of threat or emotional discomfort.
On a practical level, the folks who want to build the mosque are precisely the kind of moderate, anti-terrorist Muslim voices we should celebrate.
Still, it would be wrong to dismiss all opposition as ill-informed and tinged with bigotry. Just because some bigots flock to a position does not mean everyone who holds that position does so out of bigotry.
The World Trade Towers site is sacred ground to millions, especially the families of the dead. Many of those relatives haven’t like much of what’s been discussed, or done, in terms of uilding anew around what is in fact the burial place of their vanished loved ones. For some, opposition to this mosque continues a long record of opposing anything that smacks of returning the area to big-city business as usual.
So what do we owe the grieving? It’s tricky. Does the comfort they are due extend to granting them an emotion-driven veto over public policy? My view would be no.
Deep grief is an inflicted form of derangement. In grief, you are literally not in your right mind. That’s why we rely on a dispassionate court system, driven by rules and process, to decide what do with a murderer; we don’t leave up to the grieving family.
I say this precisely because I know if my wife, child or brother had died on Sept. 11, I would still be mad with grief, consumed by dreams of vengeance.
It’s OK if the grieving are stuck; there is no way to come out of grief but to go through it. But it’s not OK for us to let them insist that the rest of a vibrant city, a complex society stay stuck with them.