Intolerance Of "The Other" Is As American As Apple Pie

In an attempt to score political points, James Taranto asks "Is Harry Reid Un-American" because Reid issued a statement in which he stated that the yet to be built Cordoba Center ("Ground Zero Mosque" to Republicans) should be moved to another site. Taranto mocks Greg Sargent's coverage of the spectacle (I've criticized Greg myself, but because of his fixation on pols' reactions to the Cordoba Center "issue.")

Underpinning this discussion is the notion that the United States has always been a tolerant country, welcoming to all. This myth is exemplified by the Statue of Liberty, with Emma Lazarus' famous words - "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The reality of the American attitude to "The Other" has of course been quite different. From the Original Sin of slavery to the periodic bouts of nativism, xenophobia, bigotry and overt hatred ("No Irish Allowed," Jim Crow, AZ SB 1070),the American attitude towards the Other has been largely intolerant. But the United States is in no way unique in this (see, e.g., European history and present, Islamist extremism, and basically, the history of man.) [ More...]

It always amuses me when people look to pols to lead us to tolerance. Pols reflect America. And when pols see tolerance as in their electoral interests, then they are for tolerance. And vice versa. (Harry Reid wanted to eliminate birthright citizenship in 1993 and now of course he ridicules anyone who suggests it. This is purely a political calculation.) We get the government and policies that largely reflect who we are.

Longtime readers know that a touchstone work for me is Richard Hofstader's The Paranoid Style In American Politics:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization... he does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes. [. . .]

[T]he idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.

Sound like any country you know? How do we define The Other? More Hofstader:

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional)

Riffing off of Hofstader, Umberto Eco wrote a great book on paranoia called Foucalt's Pendulum. I wrote this 2005 post about it. I quoted from an interview with Eco:

Why is the notion of conspiracy and plotting so important to Foucault's Pendulum?

In some ways, my novel is the story of paranoia, interpretive paranoia. I have always been fascinated by the idea of conspiracy, which doesn't hold only in the political world but also sometimes in literary interpretation. There are forms of hermeneutics, for example, that try to find a secret meaning in a text. So we have always the obsession for a supplement of meaning that can lead to pure paranoia or to intolerance. That's why the early Christians were thrown to the lions; the Roman empire needed to find a conspiracy in order to justify certain social troubles. . . . But you can have a conspiracy syndrome anywhere. I am not saying that there are no plans, that there are no secret conspiracies. But it's not by chance that every dictatorship, when it cannot face a difficult internal situation, looks for an external enemy who is responsible. I am terrorized and frightened by this conspiracy syndrome. Somebody said to me," But you are a semiotician, you are a critic! You are always trying to uncover, to unmask meaning." True, but I am not against the act of interpretation. I am against the paranoia of interpretation, which is different.

(Emphasis supplied.) Eco amplifies this impulse of intolerance and paranoia to the entire human condition. And America is hardly immune from them. And these impulses are intensified in times of economic hardship. Overcoming this impulse, listening to the better angels of our nature, is difficult at any time. And it usually happens when the political reality is conducive to such tolerance, such as it is. Who changes political reality? Very rarely is it politicians. For pols are pols and do what they do.

Regarding the Cordoba Center issue, I did not expect leadership from our political class. Indeed, my argument about not paying attention to politicians, less than 3 months from an election, was that their contributions to the debate would harm, not help. Better a studied silence. Now it was important to hear from activists, intellectuals and opinion makers. And in this, Fareed Zakaria was a stalwart in defending tolerance. It seemed to me the battle was being won.

President Obama's impulse to speak out on the first day of Ramadan was admirable, but ultimately counterproductive. He "clarified" his remarks two days later, weakening the moral impact of his statements (as a pol, it is not surprising that he did so.) And then Dems in tough races started making statements against the location of the mosque. This was as predictable as the sun rising. Once the issue entered the arena of mainstream politics, this outcome was inevitable.

For we are, as all humans are, basically intolerant. And our politics reflects this. The struggle against intolerance is difficult and unending. But it does not start with the politicians. It ends with them.

Speaking for me only

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    i'm surprised you left out (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 08:51:10 AM EST
    the discrimination faced by the chinese, on the west coast. originally brought in to provide cheap labor for the construction of railroads, from west to east, they soon became the "irish" of the west; reviled as the "yellow peril", and accused of all kinds of nefarious activities. no account of intolerance in america is complete without them.

    i'm inclined to agree with charles barkley, with respect to the issue of role models; they should be your parents, not a ball player, celebrity or politician.

    And the first ethnic group (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:39:45 AM EST
    to face immigration quotas, i.e., the Chinese Exclusion Act.  So a very apt example.

    It was a long time (5.00 / 2) (#38)
    by Peter G on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 11:51:31 AM EST
    before a Jewish synagogue could be built in most of the cities in the colonies -- including New York.  And longer (surprisingly? perhaps not) before a Catholic Church could be opened. The tradition of religious fear and intolerance is deeply rooted.  The First Amendment, when adopted, was aspirational.  The first First Amendment freedom of religion case to reach the Supreme Court, in the 1830's iirc, involved a local ordinance seeking to prevent Catholics from holding funerals in accordance with their rites and traditions.

    that parents thing (none / 0) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 08:54:48 AM EST
    works great until your parents are drug addicts, bigots, racists, sadists, crooks or liars.

    that would be when an admirable ball player, celebrity or politician come in handy.


    See. e.g. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:05:38 AM EST
    signals I am providing examples, not an exhaustive list.

    But given the birthright citizenship debate and the leading Supreme Court case dealing with Chinese immigrants and the xenophobic laws against the Chinese, perhaps that should have been one of my examples.


    i'm quite cognizant of the (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:24:01 AM EST
    meaning of of "e.g.", having used the term myself in several hundred reports over the past 30 odd years.

    leaving the chinese out as examples reduces, by at least half, the full breadth of "other" discrimination in US history.

    yes, poor parents make poor role models, but athletes, celebrities and politicians should be, at best, your absolute fall back.

    in any event, i agree with your overall point BTD, discrimination and intolerance are as american as apple pie. heck, it's a game the entire family can enjoy!


    "We get the government . . (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 08:52:45 AM EST
    . . and policies that largely reflect who we are."

    great post.
    depressing.  but great.

    So much untapped though (5.00 / 1) (#62)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:02:53 PM EST
    As long as we allow some to set the narrative (like activist Glenn Beck) the narrative will be about the paranoid self lying its lies.

    I always unravel my own personal life when seeking social truth, my narrative about MY relationships with all of those that are NOT LIKE ME is the truth.  If the paranoids were painting the correct picture, there would be blood running in the streets right now.  I will keep my focus on what is real, and I will do my best every day to speak my truth.  If everyone had the time and the courage to do the same, this would be a very different world unraveling before us.  And if we discussed.......that would be profound.


    the historically short version: (none / 0) (#19)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:33:45 AM EST
    "we get the government we deserve."

    can't remember who said it, sorry. it remains painfully true to this day however.


    Alexis de Tocqueville (none / 0) (#26)
    by Zorba on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:39:10 AM EST
    said it.

    he also said that (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by jondee on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:26:42 PM EST
    this country was beginning to rot before it had ripened..

    Or was that Lenny Bruce? One or the other..


    Or maybe it was (none / 0) (#45)
    by Zorba on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:27:51 PM EST
    George Carlin.

    I dont know (none / 0) (#53)
    by jondee on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:44:54 PM EST
    but I wish he, George and Bill Hicks were all here to see and comment on this latest wingnut clown show.

    I hear that... (none / 0) (#86)
    by kdog on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 05:33:11 PM EST
    but you don't do a half-bad job yourself brother...we got that goin' for us.

    It has been a while since rereading (none / 0) (#87)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 06:40:39 PM EST
    his fascinating travelogue of our great land (I recommend rereading it regularly, as I do when I am so down on the present, to remember the beacon that this country was based on our aspirations then).

    But I cannot imagine that Toqueville wrote that.


    Dick Armey predictable, amusing (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by robinson on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:06:21 AM EST
    Dick Armey's comments yesterday on some morning news show (they all look the same to me any more), was predictable -- something to the effect of, if the Muslims want to bridge the gap with others, than they would build somewhere else. It reminds me of a certain "bridge to nowhere."

    No one seems to be complaining about the adult bookstore or strip club that are in the same neighborhood. Where is the line for this supposed hallowed ground anyway? Can a mosque be built anywhere in Manhattan? If the area is so sacred, should we be putting offices, banks, and ATMs all over it? These prejudice pigs need to be called out on this -- every time.

    Remember, the great majority of American Muslims are not terrorists and do not support terrorism. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks should be thought of as terrorists first and Muslims a distant second, or perhaps not at all. If these had been domestic, Christian terrorists, then no one would give a second thought to a Christian church being built in the neighborhood.

    Hypocrisy, small-mindedness and double standards need to go. These are the true seeds of real immorality. Intolerance is what we all need to get intolerant about.  

    The "hallowed ground" issue (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:20:41 AM EST
    is also a pet peeve of mine. I wish Obama had not used that reference. It is a mass murder site, and yes, the site of heroism also by those who lost their lives trying to save others. Just like thousands of other sites around the country. This desire to almost fetishize the site is very disturbing to me.

    Well (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:23:12 AM EST
    That is also a human tradition.

    The last full measure of devotion.


    It is, I realize that (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:33:37 AM EST
    And it is healthy and healing in many cases. I think it has gone into the realm of the unhealthy in this case though, paralyzing action on the site.

    to what, (none / 0) (#20)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:35:13 AM EST
    The last full measure of devotion.

    bond trading?


    Well... that's not very funny. (none / 0) (#29)
    by tigercourse on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:41:09 AM EST
    fetishize (none / 0) (#13)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:27:01 AM EST
    is a good description.  I think it has already happened.  and this mosque thing is wingnut porn.

    The almost glamorization of death (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:37:23 AM EST
    is a touchy subject...I started thinking about it a lot in the weeks following Columbine, which happened near where I lived at the time. It was more than just an outpouring of grief at the loss. A lot of it was what I considered mass hysteria.

    Maybe it is my reserved English heritage coming out.


    Think Kensington Palace and the (none / 0) (#44)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:27:25 PM EST
    idolization of Princess Diana.

    the (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:28:05 AM EST
    "bridge to nowhere."

    was a bridge to somewhere, contrary to popular (and stupid) liberal belief; it went to an airport, located on that thinly populated island. you can argue the efficacy of building it, but it didn't go to "nowhere".

    if this is the best we "liberals" and "progressives" can come up with, we're (rightfully) doomed.


    catchy though (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:30:01 AM EST
    like "ground zero mosque".  those labels come down to framing.  once it is defined that way the argument is on your terms.

    I think it works both ways (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:09:47 AM EST
    We understand that "pols are pols. . ." but we also criticize them when they act badly in the interests of short term advantage.

    They may "do what they do," but we don't have to (we should not) just sit back and take it.

    The most important role of the activist (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:16:34 AM EST
    is to criticize pols. Indeed, I wrote in a post I cite a lot:

    "As citizens and activists, our allegiances have to be to the issues we believe in. I am a partisan Democrat it is true. But the reason I am is because I know who we can pressure to do the right thing some of the times. Republicans aren't them. But that does not mean we accept the failings of our Democrats. There is nothing more important that we can do, as citizens, activists or bloggers than fight to pressure DEMOCRATS to do the right thing on OUR issues."


    But the pol has a different role (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:17:28 AM EST
    Whether he reacts to the agitation or not will be a purely political calculation.

    I question Obama's calculation.


    beginning to question the (none / 0) (#15)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:28:12 AM EST
    existence of any calculation.

    I'm not quite as (none / 0) (#17)
    by brodie on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:33:15 AM EST
    cynical about pols -- at least in the sense that there are occasionally those in political office who rise above the cacophany and bigotry of their times and show true moral leadership.

    Lincoln with slavery and his treatment of blacks.  JFK leading on civil rights in 1963 when it was politically dicey (indeed it lost him and his party support among whites in the traditionally Dem South).   Two pols who took a risk politically in order to take a moral stance.

    FDR with the Japanese-Americans -- counterexample of failure of leadership, and at a time, given his enormous popularity, when his speaking out against American bigotry against this group might well have made a difference.  True, there wasn't nearly enough of an outcry from the liberal left and J-As sufficient even to make a quorum.  Still, one person, one leader acting alone took a bad situation and made it worse instead of better.

    Re Obama, I think he's conflicted by the clash of his moral instincts vs his political ones, and so like some other flawed leaders before him -- Jimmy Carter for instance -- he's one day the highminded morally upstanding leader, the next day he's listening to the cynical, timid voices in his admin advocating better political positioning.


    Lincoln was incredibly calculating (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:35:57 AM EST
    about the slavery issue.

    FDR's actions are simply indefensible. There was no politics about it.

    JFK's leadership was fairly tepid, but clearly admirable.

    LBJ's championing of civil rights was of course politically harmful in the next decades.

    Obama was clearly reacting personally and not politically on this imo. Admirable, but not smart.


    Having read a fair amount (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by brodie on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:47:34 AM EST
    about Lincoln the man, I can't entirely ascribe pure politics to his decision on slavery.  For sure it was a carefully calculated political posture -- a nicely grooved moderate position -- but it arose from a deeper personal sense of right and wrong.  From his rhetoric of the time, it's clear he was trying to lead on the issue of slavery and treatment of blacks.  One foot squarely planted with the majority of the people, the other foot striding forward to a new day.

    JFK in mid-63 actually showed bold leadership -- especially as we consider he was elected with a bare 100k margin and it was only 50-50 that he would have enough troops in Congress in June '63 to turn the tide.  But at least he stepped up to the plate and got the ball rolling and didn't delay further, as his VP Lyndon Johnson recommended he do.


    According to Goodwiin's (none / 0) (#48)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:32:04 PM EST
    "Team of Rivals," Lincoln's strategy was to sit back and wait for his rivalsfor the nomination to fail.  Anticipating, correctly, the party convention would then nominate hime.  He was extremely cautious on the issue abolition, as opposed to Seward, his NY opponent.  

    this (none / 0) (#24)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:37:27 AM EST
    the next day he's listening to the cynical, timid voices in his admin advocating better political positioning.

    you know, I could live with this if it actually resulted in better political positioning.
    even sometimes.


    Right - when has backing off a strong statement (5.00 / 3) (#28)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:40:40 AM EST
    into a wishy-washy one ever resulted in better political positioning?

    Duh! (none / 0) (#77)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 03:49:23 PM EST
    How come you know this and they don't?

    No idea (none / 0) (#89)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 08:13:24 PM EST
    At some point Dems got it in their heads that demanding apologies from people was good politics - even from themselves!

    Is a former bait shop hallowed ground? (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:54:10 AM EST
    To some in the Heartland, perhaps.  

    But let's hear it for the Heartlanders on Green Bay's council who voted, 9-3, to approve the former bait shop site for the first mosque in the city.

    This is not obscure; the debates about mosques in the smaller towns here in the Heartland made the Daily Show -- and the burqa-and-cheesehead fashion statement took the video viral in Wisconsin (for a good laff).  And Green Bay is in Brown County, where harassment of Hmong Americans and the debate about English language-only laws have made headlines -- and made for brave pols before.

    Sadly, the county executive there who vetoed the county board's xenophobic language law and then ran for Congress was not supported by her party.

    There are pols who are good role models re tolerance, and they deserve support.  And there was a party that was a good model re tolerance -- but not anymore.  

    If you're referring to the Democrats (none / 0) (#32)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:55:42 AM EST
    then I think you're looking at history through rose colored glasses.

    If you're referring to the Democrats (none / 0) (#33)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 10:24:07 AM EST
    then you are forgetting that one, brief, shining moment.

    Forgive me for not realizing that it was but one, brief, shining moment -- one that would not last.


    When I saw that highlighted (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by brodie on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 10:48:09 AM EST
    phrase, I was about to high-five you for referencing this.  But no, you surprised me.  Be interested to hear your thoughts on why you chose that moment and that person.

    McGovern -- RFK called him the most "decent" man in the senate back when they were serving together.  Definitely a man with good moral instincts, but not exactly sharp political ones.  Flawed, well-intentioned pol who was probably the wrong person to choose to bring together the liberal and moderate wings of the party.


    I chose the moment when the Dems (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 11:16:20 AM EST
    implemented rules for fair racial representation in delegates and, perhaps more important, in the back-room politics of committees -- since it is before conventions, as we certainly have seen again, that party leaders determine whether delegates will be handed platforms and roll calls and other opportunities that allow for fairness.

    Of course, as the link discusses, that was not a brief, shining moment for gender equality in the party.  We're still waiting for that, it seems.

    That is, I was speaking a party, not a person -- not JFK, and not McGovern . . . although I honor them both for the good things that they did.  (And as it happens, I met both and worked in their campaigns.  Yes, I started young.:-)


    Oh, party, okay. (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by brodie on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:45:17 PM EST
    I think too I must have had somewhere in the back of my mind the recent doc film of McGovern and his 1972 which also was entitled "One Brief Shining Moment."

    I tend to think of the party (none / 0) (#34)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 10:44:59 AM EST
    in terms of how it acts in power. And we are talking, after all, about a party that has scarcely ever backed away from coddling its conservative elements.

    Delegate selection and platform balloting matters, but it's only a small piece.


    Oh, I certainly agree (none / 0) (#37)
    by Cream City on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 11:18:39 AM EST
    as I note below that conventions are just the too-predictable denouements of the work done in the back rooms, well before.  Perhaps the link needs to focus more for you on the crucial steps taken then re representation on the crucial committees.

    Terrific piece. In Ron Powers' (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by oculus on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:52:51 PM EST
    "Mark Twain," Powers described Twain's first stay in St. Louis in 1854.  Riots were threatened against Catholic immigrants from Europe. Twain went to an armory where a militia was being formed.  But, once the men started marching, he gave a friend has gun and went for a drink!

    Author says the Jacksonians saw their way of life being swept away by "industrialism, abolitionists, and the European Catholic immigrants, who seemed to mock the good Protestant verities, including the 'verity' of slavery as divinely ordained."

    Ulysses S. Grant joined the "Know-Nothings" after he was beat out for appointment as county engineer by a foreign-born opponent.  

    Not quite the original sin (5.00 / 2) (#85)
    by pluege2 on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 05:27:39 PM EST
    From the Original Sin of slavery

    as horrific as slavery was, the American original sin is the genocide of 10 million Native Americans wiping out 2/3 of an entire culture.

    (Just because Americans don't recognize that they inflicted the worst genocide in human history doesn't mean it didn't happen.)

    throw in the heinous act of dropping 2 nuclear bombs on 2 densely populated cities (ridiculously self-rationalized as shortening the war and saving lives) and you have a peoples that have committed some of the top atrocities in human history. But we'll just keep blowing American exceptionalism because we are truly exceptional (disgusted snark to the dullards).

    It is not productive or informative (5.00 / 1) (#88)
    by Peter G on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 07:59:36 PM EST
    to try to rank acts of genocide.

    Really interesting post (none / 0) (#7)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:11:01 AM EST
    I'm struck by the parallel of paranoid style of politics with personal psychotic paranoia. The personal expanded to the society. I'll have to read Hofstader's book.

    So in answer to your question yesterday, yes, we have gone crazy.

    The other night Jon Stewart juxtaposed Obama taking the oath of office, pledging to defend the Constitution, with his first statement on Friday. That instinct of his to frame it in those terms was what I admired. If the president can't speak out and defend the Constitution, we are in even worse trouble than I thought.

    There is no way to know now whether the other pols would have been hounded to speak up about it even if Obama had not done so. The Wurlitzer had already cranked up. I just wish he had said the same thing Saturday that he said Friday, and that the other Dem pols had taken his lead.

    It's the hot n sexy debate of the day... (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by kdog on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:35:28 AM EST
    I'm sure every pol woulda got asked for their stance anyway, or offered it up.

    Afghanistan & Iraq, unemployment, massive debt...not as much fun to discuss, and not easy "yes or no" questions like where you stand on the Cordoba Center.


    Exactly (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by ruffian on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:39:07 AM EST
    heaven forbid they ask about anything that really matters.


    NO IT IS NOT! (none / 0) (#41)
    by BTAL on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:19:19 PM EST

    the only intolerance (none / 0) (#42)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:22:38 PM EST
    we tolerate is lactose.

    there's intolerance (none / 0) (#46)
    by jondee on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:28:12 PM EST
    and then there's intolerance..

    Actually (none / 0) (#40)
    by jbindc on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:07:14 PM EST
    I think this libertarian writer makes some good points about "intolerance" and "bigotry" - two terms that have been thrown around a lot, and in many cases, unitentionally in an ironic manner.

    There are those who continue to make the facile claim that any protest over Park51 is a display in un-American intolerance and contempt for the Constitution. This position treats criticism of faith -- religious institutions and symbols included -- as tantamount to "bigotry."

    Given that there remains overwhelming opposition to the ground zero mosque, this viewpoint would mean that 70 percent of Americans are impulsively hostile to freedom of religion and irrationally narrow-minded.

    Could be. Or maybe a few of these folks believe the First Amendment features more than one clause. Even a newfound reverence for religious liberty on the left does not negate our right to protest and criticize the philosophical disposition of others. And applying public pressure in an effort to shut down a project is as American as protesting the arrival of a new Walmart. Religious institutions, as far as I can tell, are not exempted from these disputes.


    Though only a fraction of Catholic priests are pedophiles, the entire Roman Catholic Church is routinely broad-brushed as corrupt and depraved. I've not heard those who make generalizations about Catholicism referred to as bigots in Time magazine. Nor have I heard those who regularly disparage evangelicals called intolerant.

    talk to me (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by CST on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:29:06 PM EST
    when someone starts protesting the right of the Church to build schools or places of worship.

    There is a difference between using speach to be critical of an organization and trying to prohibit their ability to exist and operate.

    People are in fact making attempts all over the country to prohibit the building of Mosques.  Thus restricting the first amendment rights of Muslims.  In being critical of the Catholic Church, or other churches, I don't see anyone trying to restrict their first amendment rights.


    Yours is the better point (5.00 / 2) (#51)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:38:17 PM EST
    But I was just amazed that someone would claim with a straight face that no one attacks people who criticize Christian or Jewish religions.

    That is so plainly false, that it is perhaps one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read.


    the reason (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:49:29 PM EST
    I sometimes over react on this subject is because I am so damn sick of religious impunity and the idea that religion is above criticism.  or that any religion other than Scientology is.
    IMO that attitude has gotten us to sad place we are today.

    But we know where the boundaries (none / 0) (#69)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:16:53 PM EST
    lie when confronting the "faiths" that are known to us.  There will always be bigots for every shade of humanity.  I think it is the unknown about the Muslim faith along with past terrorism that fuels this whole debate and the terror that some people feel.  There are very very few other "faithful followers" that video their terror attacks and post them on the internet as acts of Gods Will other than Muslims too.  I think there are a few other aspects to this.

    "Prohibit their ability to exist (none / 0) (#56)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:22:46 PM EST
    and operate"?  I don't think that is what the opposition to this specific mosque is saying at all.  Even Newt Ginrich doesn't believe that.  The opposition to this mosque is simply its location.  Nothing more.  There is nothing wrong with being opposed to where something is located, and requesting that it be moved to another sight in no way prohibits the ability to exist or operate the mosque.  There are plenty of laws that restrict where businesses or other operations may be located, non of which are deemed to prohibit a business from operating.  I understand the developers of the mosque have gone thru every channel and obtained the necessary approvals, so that is not an issue.  The issue is simply whether building it there offends those who live there.  

    Personally, I believe the mosque has every right to be built at the location, but I also dont live in NYC and do not have any connection to anyone who was lost on 9/11.

    The better question for those who oppose the sight, is how far away does the mosque need to be to be considered o.k.?


    Here's the question (5.00 / 3) (#59)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:46:18 PM EST
    if it was a church would they oppose it? No. Therefore it is based on bigotry against Islam.

    Bigotry? (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:12:13 PM EST
    IMO those opposed feel that the placement is insensitive to their loss, not that they are intolerant or have any anemosity toward Islam  (certainly some may).  If that were the case, wouldn't the people of NYC oppose having any mosque in the city?  I always thought of NYC as a melting pot, certainly not a hot bed of bigotry.

    Was there talk after (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by jondee on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:21:32 PM EST
    9/11 of establishing a mosque-free zone around the site? If they were that sensitive about it , one would think that would've been one of the first things the sensitive ones would lobby for in the wake of the tragedy -- instead of just taking it for granted that the area would be "hallowed" by Burlington Coat Factorys selling sweat shop made product at a 400% mark up.

    In order to be offended, (5.00 / 4) (#71)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:24:17 PM EST
    you have to assume that the American Mulims seeking to build their Center/mosque are responsible for 9/11.

    You have to paint with a broad brush and assign collective guilt to all American Muslims to be offended.  Assigning collective guilt is bigotted.  

    Even people who are truly aggrieved and hurting can be bigotted and strike out at the wrong people....

    But, heh, they all look alike....

    Being bigotted against Muslims does not necessarily mean not liking or hating or having animosity towards them.  One can be bigotted towards friends....Being bigotted means painting negative characteristics with a broad brush based on religion or ethnicity.....You can do that to even people you like.  

    The Old South had very loving Masters.....


    So by your reasoning, those who (none / 0) (#73)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:49:30 PM EST
    are offended by the flying of the confederate flag are actually bigots.  They have to assume that the person displaying the flag believes in slavery.

    Some things can simply be offensive and/or insensative.


    Being a bigot against (none / 0) (#75)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 03:14:12 PM EST
    the Confederacy?  Never heard of that....

    That is another can of worms.....But adopting the Confederacy as an appropriate symbol is at the least accepting of slavery....

    The Confederacy was an odious, treasonous government that used violence to keep the slaves enslaved....

    Better example, please....


    NYC opposes the mosque? (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 03:47:39 PM EST
    News to me.

    "People of" (none / 0) (#78)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:12:11 PM EST
    according to CNN poll.  But correct NYC to NY state.  

    (CNN) - New York voters oppose by a nearly 2-to-1 margin plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll released Wednesday.

    The same voters, however, overwhelmingly say the center's developers have a constitutional right to build it.

    When asked if they "support or oppose the proposal to build the Cordoba House," New Yorkers said they oppose the facility, which is expected to cost $100 million, by a 63-27 percent margin. At the same time, by a 64-to-28 percent margin, New Yorkers say Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has the constitutional right to build it.

    "A majority of every demographic group - by party, region, age, gender, political philosophy - agrees that there is a Constitutional right to proceed," said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. "Even a majority of those who oppose building the mosque agree by a margin of 51-42 percent that they have the right to build it."

    A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released August 11 marked nationwide opposition to the proposed facility at 68 percent.

    The Siena poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. It was conducted by phone with 788 New York State voters from August 9-16.


    I wonder (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:19:47 PM EST
    how many of those people know absolutely nothing about it except the title "ground zero mosque"?
    and are imagining domes and minarets sitting squarely on the WTC site?  and that it is replacing a church which is being disallowed.



    Probably a majority. (none / 0) (#81)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:23:02 PM EST
    Apparently the state is full of (none / 0) (#79)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:17:58 PM EST

    It is (none / 0) (#83)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:26:52 PM EST
    So is the country. This seems to surprise you.

    There a is a great post on the subject at TL.

    Let me see if I can find the link.


    No need (none / 0) (#84)
    by coast on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:32:53 PM EST
    I can get the website for the Republican National Committee on my own.

    Oh (none / 0) (#82)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:25:49 PM EST
    They oppose like I oppose it - in a completely meaningless way.

    There is apparently opposition (none / 0) (#72)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:25:43 PM EST
    to mosques in Brooklyn and Staten Island....

    And Tennesee. (5.00 / 1) (#90)
    by Chuck0 on Fri Aug 20, 2010 at 09:03:31 AM EST
    Apparently, that's too close.

    That is the bottom line (none / 0) (#63)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:03:11 PM EST
    A church is "the devil" they know (none / 0) (#65)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:06:58 PM EST
    It is "the devil" that they don't know that terrifies them.

    It is not just a problem in Lower Manhattan (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:09:04 PM EST
    The bigots and wingers are opposing mosques in a lot of other locations too, including Brooklyn and Staten Island (not far enough way from Ground Zero, I guess), and Tennessee (still too close), and even California (move it to the next continent over).

    The Local Zoning board unanimously approved the building of the Center.


    Opposition (none / 0) (#64)
    by CST on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:04:37 PM EST
    to this has now extended beyond this Mosque in many parts of the coutnry to attempts to prohibit Mosques from being built, period.

    In addition to that, in order for the religion comparison to hold up, show me where there is opposition to the location of other places of worship?  Yes people make comments about the Catholic Church, but I have yet to see any opposition to any Catholic churches being built, regardless of location.

    With regards to laws that restrict where businesses operate, I believe there are specific restrictions on the use of these laws towards religious buildings - precisely so people could not effectively prohibit these buildings from being built in certain neighborhoods.


    The religious conservatives (5.00 / 2) (#68)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:16:09 PM EST
    pushed through a statute (RLUIPA) in 2000 that prevents local zoning decisions from stopping the building of houses of worship.  If it is zoned for commercial or industrial use or multi-family residential use, it is not--by federal law, states' rights be dam*ed--possible to prevent a church, or a mosque, from being built there....

    There is no permissible zoning rigamarole allowed to stop a church or a mosque from being built.

    Lower Manhattan is not zoned for single family residences only......So, one cannot prevent a mosque from being built there.  End of story.  


    That's ridiculous (5.00 / 2) (#49)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:34:15 PM EST
    I have hear a million times peopled called anti-Catholic for noting that a large number of priests are child molesters.

    What freaking country are you living in?


    In fact (5.00 / 2) (#50)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:36:37 PM EST
    I remember a sh*t load of protest when Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on SNL.

    Honestly, you are ridiculous.

    Of course, the better pint is made by the other response to your original comment.


    why is it that when (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by jondee on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 12:41:41 PM EST
    the chips are down, so-called "libertarians" always seem to feel the need to line up with the most bigoted and fear-mongering element in our political spectrum? "I'll trade my deregulation and tax cuts for your family values and end times"..?

    And, guaranteed, that misleading "70%" is predominantly about people responding to a mosque-AT-ground-zero leading question.


    i think (5.00 / 2) (#57)
    by cpinva on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:44:11 PM EST
    this "libertarian writer" is full of it. nice try though, in a pathetically simplistic, "i want to be a xenophobe, without seeming like one in public" kind of way.

    i live in an area of the country (va) where half the civil war, and a fair chunk of the revolution were fought. if every single acre of "hallowed ground" were restricted from anything, fully 50% of the commonwealth wouldn't have anything on it. clearly, this makes little economic sense.

    my house sits on land probably used by both union and confederate troops, as encampments during various and sundry campaigns, as do my neighbors'. were we to follow the script, there'd be no houses, residents, businesses, and the city would be bankrupt.

    honor the dead, but the living must go on.

    if europe restricted development, to only those places having no historical value, the entire continent would be nothing but a plat of commerorative statuary. lovely to gaze upon, but useless to the inhabitants.


    And, they are of course going (5.00 / 2) (#61)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:01:22 PM EST
    to build where the Twin Towers used to be....

    And there will be all kinds of tenants....including St. Nicholas, a Catholic church.  On Ground Zero.

    Are we going to police every single lease in the the new buildings to make sure they are politically correct and do not offend anyone?  And this is at Ground Zero.  What about all the leases in the buildings next to Ground Zero?  All of Lower Manahattan?

    By the logic of the opponents, it would be okay to prevent a Catholic church from being built next to a school where several kids had been molested....


    The First Amendment (none / 0) (#60)
    by MKS on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:53:44 PM EST
    allows people to express bigotted views....

    To paint with the broad brush that American Muslims seeking to build the Center are somehow connected to 9/11 is bigotted.

    Even if 70% hold a view, that does not make it right.

    Being bigotted does not mean hating or disliking someone.  

    Ask Scarlett O'Hara who her best, most cherished friend was, and she would of course tell you Mammy.  Did Scarlett express racist views towards Mammy best friend?  


    100% Pure Malarky (none / 0) (#74)
    by squeaky on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:49:38 PM EST
    Of course the families and friends of the 9/11 victims need to be sorted out as to how much they matter. Muslim victims and their families are not even on the totem pole because they are not representative of real america, and they are obviously biased and criminal sympathizers. Blacks, well they know what oppression is like so they likely to biased and, sh*t only represent 10% of america, with an axe to grind, no less. And the hispanics, well they are not to be trusted either, because they have a persecution complex, harbor foreign allegiances, and are probably illegal anyway. The jews, well it depends... some of them are commies, so the whole bunch should be avoided... And all the foreigners who got killed, well they are not even americans, so who cares what they think.

    That leaves about 5% of real americans who, through proven means of natural selection, represent America. They are offended by the Sufi's (terrorists) who want to desecrate America with terrorist dogma, and they are the only ones that really matter.


    I'm not sure what to believe (none / 0) (#91)
    by Jack E Lope on Sat Aug 21, 2010 at 01:24:49 PM EST
    ...when reading this from a "libertarian":
    Given that there remains overwhelming opposition to the ground zero mosque, this viewpoint would mean that 70 percent of Americans are impulsively hostile to freedom of religion and irrationally narrow-minded.

    Can I believe that libertarians stand for a form of tyranny-of-the-majority?

    Can I believe that people were asked a poll question with the words "ground zero mosque"?

    Can I believe that a "vast majority" would have been opposed to locating that proposed "GZM" on a former Burlington Coat Factory site, a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero?  (That's what the control question should have been - test whether respondents know anything beyond the Talking Points.  But that's not the point of a push poll.)