Is there anything as repugnant as a bigoted American?
Our nation, after all, is not supposed to be consumed by racism and bigotry, those Old World values that gave rise to our country’s founding ideals.
Unlike our ancestors in the backwards lands of Europe or the internecine battlegrounds of the Asia, in America all men (and eventually women) were supposedly created equal and were welcome to thrive in what is supposed to be a democratic oasis for everyone kicked out, exiled, rejected from or otherwise brutalized away from their homeland.
It’s in our founding documents. It’s on our Statue of Liberty. It’s on the bills in our wallet. This is the land where the poor, huddled masses breathe free.
So when an American stands up against another American’s right to live up to those democratic ideals, something is seriously wrong.
The nation has seen some of this anti-immigrant fear-mongering during the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” but we have been shocked to discover our own little cell of intolerance in Sheepshead Bay, where Muslim residents want to build their own, albeit much smaller, community center on a residential strip of Voorhies Avenue.
The debate over this mosque has been of small scale than the one filling the country’s newspapers and the talk shows on Fox News, but it has been no less passionate. Opponents constantly trot out the tired line that they are not “anti-Muslim,” but are merely objecting to the plan for a four-story building because it will overwhelm the community with traffic.
But as this week’s front-page story points out — again! — the argument over traffic and congestion is one that opponents make on paper only. The minute they start opening their mouths, the same old racism starts spilling out like raw sewage into the Gowanus Canal.
They say that the mosque will be a terror incubator.
They say that the Muslim American Society is funded by Iran.
They say that the group supports Hamas and Hezbollah.
All without a shred of proof.
They demean Muslim prayer rituals. They demean Islam. They demean their very neighbors for wanting to build a house of worship in their own community.
Are there probably some legitimate traffic concerns on Voorhies Avenue? Certainly. But a church, bookstore or popular restaurant would create similar congestion, yet not the nativistic vitriol we’ve been hearing about this mosque.
We are not New Yorkers if we can’t put up with a little congestion in the name of a modern, multi-cultural city. And we’re not Americans if we can’t live up to the very definition of America.