Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 Thoughts

This is a photo of my friend Mike M. I went to high school with him. You can guess where he is, and I'll just say that this photo was taken 24 hours after the towers were first hit. I'll talk a little more about him later in this entry.

The world is abuzz and on edge right now with talk of the Mosque near Ground Zero and the pastor in Florida who wants to burn a stack of Korans to prove his point.

Both parties have a right, here in America, to do what they want to do.

The muslim dudes own the building, they have a right to put what they call a "cultural center" in that building. They THINK that their presence there will bring happiness and joy to the neighborhood, kind of like the 92nd Street Y brings all over the city. Art, music, fellowship... The 92nd Street Y and all its satellite locations are YMHA, not YMCA, a Hebrew association.

So they want to do the same thing, which sounds nice.

But I have a feeling the Muslim "interfaith" center will be a lot more religious in an Islamic way than "interfaithy" like the 92nd Street Y's mission has been. But that shouldn't make it illegal or wrong for them to build their building and do what they feel is best for their vision and mission.

A lot of people are mad that it is "too close" to sacred ground, being a few blocks away from Ground Zero. Thing is, how far away would "comfortable" for the people who don't like it? Five blocks instead of two or four? Fifteen blocks? Another state? What difference does it make if it is there or on Mars.

The muslim center's refusal to budge and relocate is stubborn, but it is their right. Their legal, first amendment based property owners right.

As it is the right for people to yell back and squak at them about it. Who knows, it could turn out to be a real gem in lower Manhattan. It could also turn out to be the embodiment of everyone's paranoid nightmares that seem to be blown out of proportion. I can't predict the future.

The pastor in Florida who believes that his righteous act of burning Korans is a show of strength for America and sends a message to the islamofascists that we won't be trifled with. It doesn't really. Thing is, I bet there have been plenty of people who HAVE already done this and no one knew about it. This guy is provocative, purposefully so. He is less interested in proving a point than he is in getting attention and making a media circus about his beliefs. He is less interested in dialog with "moderate" muslims than he is interested in giving the finger to radical extremists. And he really does not give an ounce of care to what the repercussions may be.

He's entitled to do what he wants and say what he wants, just as much as someone who wants to burn a bible, or an American Flag, cover a Christ on a crucifix in piss and call it "art" or whatever.

It is his right. Just like the muslims have the right to build whatever they want on the property they own. None of us have to like it. Don't like it? Don't participate. Don't go there. Don't burn the books, don't hang out at the mosque.

The thing is, pastor Jones is trying to make a point to an audience that will not feel the same way that I do, and will not see it as his right to do so. They are people who only believe in THEIR point of view and actually want to impose and force their way of life onto others, killing those who do not agree with them, which makes them very dangerous.

These are the same people who have a death threat out on a Danish cartoonist for drawing a picture of take anyone seriously. They aren't open to discourse. They don't want to have a discussion. They are not looking to live in peace and harmony. And by conducting the Koran burning, he then puts everyone in the line of fire and in danger.

It took me a little while to find this quote, but in an interview Pastor Jones is quoted as saying:
I think, most of the time, we as Christians are indeed called to turn the other cheek. I believe that, most of the time, talk and diplomacy is the correct way. But I also think that once in a while- I think you see that in the Bible- there are incidents where enough is enough and you stand up. Jesus went into the temple and he threw all of the money-changers out. He did not ask them to leave. He was not peaceful. He was at that time very, very upset. Even when this very close friend and disciple, Peter- even when he tried to stop Jesus from fulfilling his will- from fulfilling the father's will, Jesus called him the devil. Jesus called the religious leaders of that time serpents and snakes. So I agree that, most of the time, diplomacy and turning the other cheek is the proper way, but sometimes not.

Read more:
I think that he is totally out of his mind, that Jesus is Jesus, and by turning the moneycounters tables over in the Temple, he proved his point because ... HE IS GOD and people LEARNED from that. Or they got pissed and you know what? They then hung him on a cross and killed him. Either way, Pastor Jones is not Jesus. And if he thinks that his act of burning Korans is doing what Jesus did he's just so wrong.

As for turning the other cheek, Jesus told us that we are to continue to turn the other cheek. It is up to our government to do certain things, and pastors to do other things, like tend to their flock with love. Not do something like this.

Which brings me back to the photo at the top of the page.

Mike and I went to high school together. He is a year younger than I am. He and I were in marching band together, and I always liked him but didn't know too much about him beyond school. It wasn't until we reconnected on facebook that I learned that he was an Eagle Scout and other great things. And I learned that he was there on 9/11.

He lost friends. Beloved brothers, fellow servants that day. He refers to the photo above as the "crime scene photo" of him the following morning. He was angry at the photographer who was marching around snapping photos. He didn't realize it was a CSI. Thought it was a media photographer, or some pervert disrespecting the murder scene.

Mike's face says a lot. It is a look that could kill. But Mike isn't out killing muslims, or setting fire to things. Mike's loss, and the loss of many others, is deep and amazing.

Continuing to insult those who are aligned with, or peripherally associated, or simply of the same faith as the guys who took all his friends isn't the right thing to do. Continuing to add fuel to a horrible fire that has been smoldering for centuries only creates a conflagration.

I do not want to lose Mike, or any other friends, because this fire flares. I honestly believe that Pastor Jones will cause that to happen. And rather than insult, he should serve with love. There is no better way to send a strong message to those who hate that we won't be trifled with than loving and being kind and doing good work in the community.

I am very afraid for us at this point if people do not start to recognize that just because you CAN do or say something doesn't mean you SHOULD.

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