Smart v. Stupid
Mosque as metaphor
Muslim community center opponents are expressing despair of the defeated
We lost. Well, George Bush lost actually, but the America of today is a reflection of his defeat by Osama Bin Laden.
For some years now, I’ve been saying that the second greatest tragedy of my lifetime (after Vietnam) was that Bin Laden wasn’t killed within six months of 9/11.
On that day, he stole our American innocence. Later, George Bush delivered (to the dustbin of history) our sense of safety and security. Instead of avenging our national insult, he used the bombing as an opportunity to conquer an oil producing nation. He devoted ten times the military resources to taking over oil wells that he did to killing a modern mass murderer. His greed delivered victory to Bin Laden.
Clearly, the venomous opposition to the Park 51 Muslim community center in Manhattan isn’t about what’s being argued. The notion that this neighborhood is sacred ground is, well, simply contrived. It’s not even at “Ground Zero.” You can’t even see the World Trade Center construction site from the building. It is in a neighborhood of strip clubs, massage parlors and sandwich shops more reminiscent of the dirty, old New York. A religious community center would be a step up for the street. Even an atheist would think so.
The second aspect of the protest — the idea of a Muslim takeover of the USA — is even nuttier than the idea that Park 51 is a victory lap. When protesters called the black guy a coward (they thought wrongly that he was a Muslim) it seemed entirely crazy. How could walking through 500 raving lunatics be an act of cowardice? Then it dawned on me that they were really projecting their own abject outlook, the viewpoint of the defeated. This despair is the inevitable result of the failure to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden.
Ironically, Bush behaved in exactly the way Bin Laden thinks we all do — putting money ahead of morals. It’s Osama’s grand excuse for his own murderous ways, and George Bush did everything in his power to confirm it. Osama may have been right about Bush, but he is dead wrong about the moral character of most Americans. Maybe he’d only met the secret-war Americans who’d rented him to fight Russia and then laid him off — not the good decent folks that we mostly are. Maybe, he’s just delusional.
Nigh on to ten years later in America, we all engage in dumb rituals like taking our shoes off in airports and standing in line everywhere the government operates. These activities do nothing for our actual safety but constantly remind us just how much we’ve lost due to Bush’s failure. All the pretend security makes us feel safer while constantly reminding us to also feel unsafe. It’s a grand cumulative trauma, a collective form of PTSD.
Beyond that, at least part of the reason our economy is in the crapper is the huge amount of money we spend protecting ourselves from a few thousand organized murderers. The most powerful nation in the world now operates on a permanent war footing with no sign that all the blood and treasure will get any positive result. We have the largest war budget since WWII and the largest black budget since the height of the Cold War. The only demonstrated outcome is the spending itself. We’ve funded a fear factory where rights like privacy are luxuries we can no longer afford.
A feeling of insecurity is the underlying motive behind the silly rhetoric at Park 51. The folks that oppose the “Ground Zero Mosque” — not even a nearly accurate description — are people who are brimming with rage because they feel defeated by Al Qaeda and brimming with fear because they were defeated by Bush.
Make no mistake; Bin Laden wounded our nation — an act completely worthy of execution. But it was Bush who murdered our psyche. What got us here wasn’t some former Afghan freedom fighter who had a grudge because we cut off his paycheck when we no longer needed him. Bin Laden should have been a minor figure in history, on the same order as Timothy McVeigh: a crazy cur that we had to put down for his own good. If he’d been shot or crushed or exploded sometime before that Christmas, Osama would be only a distant memory this September 11.
I believe we could have done it back then. But, we had our eyes on the oil prize, not the human one. So instead, we’ve sacrificed a little bit of our courage, a little bit of our Constitution, and a little bit of our humanity.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”