Why Mayor Bloomberg handled the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy all wrongly

When Mayor Bloomberg trotted out to the podium in front of the Statue of Liberty to wallop everyone across the face with a new Ground Zero reality, he was doing so to teach the less tolerant among us, a lesson about religious freedom.

His photo-op was not addressing any meaningful controversy. Up to that speech, the cultural center was approved unanimously. If there were rumblings, Bloomberg could simply have issued a statement correcting popular misconceptions.

I wish I had learned of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" differently. I did not understand that the poorly dubbed cultural center was in fact not at Ground Zero, but two city blocks away, and around the corner, out of sight.

If the mayor had simply corrected people's impressions, he could have nipped the whole false "Ground Zero mosque" meme in the bud before it ever got so out of hand.

Instead he dragged Lady Liberty into the picture and gave everyone a good scolding. His timing couldn't have been worse for the 9/11 community. 9/11 Responders had just lost their hospital money from Congress. Here they were thinking that politicians don't give a damn about them, and what does Mayor Bloomberg do? He begins the 9/11 Commemorations of 2010 with a defense of the rights of rich Muslims to build their version of a YMCA downtown when no decision-making authority was saying they could not. In fact they had full permission.

On 9/11, politicians shed crocodile tears for the Joe Blows, but wail like banshees on behalf of a hundred million dollar organization with 13-story plans in lower Manhattan. I have nothing against Muslims, and wish them all the best with their center which has nothing to do with Ground Zero.

Bloomberg's news conference confused me, to be frank. By the time I understood the Ground Zero mosque was no such thing at all, I wrote this clarification. My first reaction was written up in this essay.

The words that went out across the airwaves were "Ground Zero mosque" and "mosque at Ground Zero."

I absolutely object to a "Ground Zero mosque" or a "mosque at Ground Zero." Any American, including Muslims would, because it would interfere with the monument. It would force one monument on top of another monument. It would create competing narratives on one space, which might be interesting artistically, but would not be right for that reason. Either of those ideas on sacred ground would be inappropriate, and that's what the cultural center is being made to seem like. I support the building of the cultural center two blocks away, out of sight from Ground Zero, because I have no reasonable objection to pre-existing projects on private property which is no way designated as part of Ground Zero.

There was no national controversy until Mayor Bloomberg made this into a cause on behalf of religious freedom. It was not at Ground Zero. The defense he put-up made it seem like it was.

Instead, the defense was itself , the slap in the face. It was as though if you did not come to this already thinking it should go up, you were somehow un-American. You have to work me up to this mosque idea, and make sure I don't get what's happening wrongly. Nope. No such effort was made. It was as though the opposite effect was hoped for--a good big controversy over nothing at all.

The mayor's little galant speech on behalf of religious freedom that was under no threat whatsoever, has sparked a cause. Just before the 9/11 Commemoration next month, a fiery American style debate has erupted about a whole lot of nothing. And right on the heels of a denial of funds for 9/11 Responders by Congress.

Sickened by the pretentious lack of understanding, a movement has been sparked to make sure the speech-makers who were so eloquent on behalf of a hundred million dollar center, don't forget their own---the everyday Americans who not only got slaughtered on 9/11, but were so traumatized by that event that they went off to get slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan after that, and soon, amidst all this powder-keg controversy over mosques, off to get slaughtered in Iran.


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