Tuesday, August 24, 2010
To my unknown Muslim community
It is in my personal nature to consider by extention that the great majority of muslim people are good, and leading peaceful and constructive lives also, despite the fact that in the 9/11 era virtually all terrorists have emerged from islamic belief and culture. But, because I am not a muslim and have had no intimacy with its culture, I do have to take my cherished assumption on faith. Your collective face is veiled to my eyes, I have no personal tool for isolating the evil from the good.
I can't be alone in my limitation. How common is this, here in my home in the U.S.A, in northern Delaware, or anywhere? I keep wondering, why are all the good muslims so quiet? They seem to be. Those wishing to build a muslim religious center blocks from ground zero in NYC can't not know the hurtful sensibility of the situation. Are they seeking to seed a healing glasnost in the heart of the west, or simply and cynically to keep their enemies closer? Or is it really just the luck of the real estate draw? I know that where I live the last decade has witnessed a ballooning muslim presence. They have a large community center just 2 miles from my front door. Them. Them is the problem. Not "they are," but "them is." Sometimes you can wind up alone in a limitation even if there are millions of you-- if you wind up being them.
Or, maybe the limitation is mine? The muslim community is talking, only I don't know how to hear it? Is a profound failure in the American media to blame? All too often good news isn't good enough to feed its appetite for sensationalism. If I could interview my hypothetical "you" on the street, here would be my question:
You are in my country by choice-- do you like us? Do you like what we are? Or do we disgust you and you just stay for the education and the work? Hey, if that's so, I understand. My italian immigrant grandparents didn't like it either, but back home in Italy, where society was decent, they couldn't find jobs. But their feelings never turned into hostility. Have yours? Or, are you like our own historical Pilgrims, who came to America to escape religious intolerance only to turn around and become intolerant of others at every turn? So, what will your contribution be to any future american greatness, good deeds despite all? Or yet one more growth-provoking lesson in hypocrisy?
Why do I talk to you as if you're a giant monolith? Because I can't see your face, whether that be my fault, my culture's, or yours. It's not fair to either of us, because the face is that unique part of the human body that shows the soul. And, politically speaking, you can see mine. Treasure any modesty you wish except that of your face.
I favor building the religious center near ground zero, granting transparency, simply because the rightness of doing so is the law of the land, constitutionally and morally. And even if we don't look moral to you on our surface, just below it most of us come out of a sense of justice in which we invest a profound faith. We allow ourselves-- and you-- to run wild because we trust ourselves to behave well when it counts, and because, as our Benjamin Franklin expressed, those who would give up liberty for the sake of security deserve neither. I deserve your face in return for mine.