Sound and fury, signifying nothing

A Bangladeshi cab driver was attacked this week, after allegedly being asked if he was Muslim. The comments on this Yahoo news article make me want to throw up. We are living in a powder keg of hate, of intolerance, where the diversity of New York, its greatest strength, is being turned against it.

If there is one thing that has stood out to me during this current brouhaha over the lower Manhattan Islamic community center, it’s how the media and the political machine have perpetuated a cycle of misinformation and fear-mongering. Buzz words have obfuscated the facts (which, okay, is ‘business as usual’) and indignant screaming has drowned out so many things that the public needs to hear. Like that there are already mosques near the World Trade Center site. (And, you know, strip clubs and a McDonald’s and stuff, too.) The Daily Show, now the nation’s top investigative news team (and isn’t that sad?) uncovered that the man behind the so-called radical Islamic foundation funding the Park51 project also owns stock in News Corp. He’s Rupert Murdoch’s partner and owns part of Fox News!

Why is none of this being reported more widely? Because it would get in the way of well-timed election season soapboxing? Because, God forbid, it would actually be accurate? What should be a local issue, handled by the Park51 people, zoning boards and neighborhood groups, has become a national circus, with people who have no vested interest in the daily workings of New York City making judgment calls on what should be done.

What’s most distasteful is that in the name of “sparing” and “protecting” those who lost someone on 9/11, all this righteousness and noise is exploiting them. Why torment survivors of a tragedy like this?

And where is the outrage over building office space, a subway station and a shopping mall at the actual WTC site? Er, sorry, make that a “transportation and retail concourse below grade connected to the central PATH terminal.” (Per I mean, hey, maybe I’m a bad capitalist or something, but the idea of a Pinkberry or something on the WTC site is a little more hinky to me to me than a house of worship and cultural center going up a few blocks away. And, of course, Conde Nast will be in the new complex, too. Let nothing stand in the way of progress! Unless it’s progress by people who don’t look like you… 

When our nation is already so divided, with so much nativism and racism being cloaked in political rhetoric, the public is being misled. And it is completely irresponsible.

I’m not religious, and I don’t live in lower Manhattan. I have no personal stake in where the Islamic center goes. But I am a New Yorker with a personal stake in my own safety and the safety of my fellow man. I’m brown, and I don’t want to walk out the door every morning with the sense that just because I’ve picked out a kurta to wear over my jeans, I might have painted a target on my back. But hate is everywhere, isn’t it? On Staten Island right now, it’s not the assumption that you’re Muslim that will get you beaten; it’s the assumption that you’re Mexican. Bigotry is inescapable. It’s alive and well and powerful.

And, all too frequently, it starts because of a tale told by an idiot.

2 thoughts on “Sound and fury, signifying nothing

  1. You know, I told myself during the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election that I really needed to stop reading the comments on blogs and articles, because all it did was make my blood pressure spike. Of course, I haven’t done anything of the sort, because I find myself morbidly fascinated by the cauldron of hate that is the Internet.

    The issue of the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ has definitely made me boggle at the bigotry, the hatred, the illogic of a frighteningly large percentage of the population. These are the same people who bang the gong of ‘Constitutional freedom!’ when it comes to ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.’ (Of course, for these people, it has nothing to do with ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state.’ They just want to make sure that they can have a loaded semi-auto in the nightstand in case any of the scary brown people try to rob or rape them. And yes, I’m generalizing. :P) But they will twist themselves into knots to try and justify Federal intervention into the Muslim worship center, because the part about how ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (emphasis mine).’ Apparently the Constitution only applies to the Judeo-Christian tradition. And maybe Scientology, ‘cause they have lots of rich white people. Some of them will argue that sure, the Muslims have the right to build it, but they still shouldn’t, because it will hurt other people’s feelings. I guess we’re all abiding by the Kindergarten Commandment now…

    My absolute favorite crazy-person argument, though, is the one that says they shouldn’t be able to build their mosque unless a Christian church can be built in an Islamic country. Because a) this is obviously all about the Christians, who are totally repressed and have nowhere at all to freely worship, evangelize, or have a sense of community. (War on Christianity, yo!) And b) we should restrict the freedoms of our great nation to match those of countries we consider repressive. Um, sure. Let’s do that.

    The foaming-at-the-mouth fearmongering has just gotten so out of control. If it’s not the ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’ it’s the ‘Mexicans are going to take over the country and we’re all going to be forced to speak Spanish.’ (Seriously, would anyone care about immigration if there was a sudden influx of migrant Canadians?) Or the ‘gay marriage undermines the institution of heterosexual marriage, and then it will be okay for incest and pedophilia and bestiality to become the norm.’ Because clearly, the institution of heterosexual marriage hasn’t damaged itself with its 50% divorce rate. And if The Gays can marry, then they will try and recruit your children to become part of The Gay.

    People drive me nuts. Seriously. They’d probably sleep better at night if they didn’t spend so much time figuring out who else to hate.


    1. I wish I could co-sign your reply, Carrie. “Migrant Canadians” and “Kindergarten Commandment” are priceless, and just the touch of lightness we need as we head-desk over these awful issues.

      People drive me nuts as well, and I continue to be surprised by just how far and deep the prejudice can run…and, moreover, how comfortable people feel sharing such views. Like “Ragheads out!” is a normal thing to say.


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