Sunday, August 15, 2010

The World Is Full of Ground Zeroes

A true patriot shows his love for fellow citizens
The nonsensical and mostly hateful discussion about the the so-called 'Ground-Zero Mosque' just shows how politics and religion are almost one and the same thing in many areas of the US at present.

The so-called separation of Church and State is a great principle, but is getting  less and less implemented.  And even when religion is not explicitly part of the public discussion, the religious tones seem to underlie the discourse.

In my opinion, it is no coincidence that this ugly situation is being kindled more and more in preparation for the the November primaries where the politicians of the 'American Party of God', aka the Republican Party, would sell there souls - if they have any - for a seat in the congress.

But one good thing that came out of this is the energization of many good people in the defence of the group that wants ot build the Cordoba Islamic Center, and of Muslims in America against the tide of hate they are facing.

A good friend of ours has forwarded me an article in the Huffington Post that that is mostly a letter written by a friend of hers, Anya Cordell.  Our friend describes Anya Cordell as a Jewish activist that "... has been actively engaged in monitoring and responding to the rising tide of distortions and lies related to Islam, Muslims and groups designated as the other."

I will be quoting excerpts from the letter only here, but the introduction by the Huffington Post writer, William Spear, is also very well-worth you time, and you can read the whole thing here.

... I've been wondering about your response to the multiple traumas related to 9/11 and lower Manhattan; the victims on the planes and on the ground, the rescue workers, the witnesses on the scene and watching on screens (all of us), and Muslims the world over who became instantly associated with something as horrifying and destructive as this event. As you know, I received the 2010 Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Citizen Award from The Anne Frank Center USA (in lower Manhattan ) for my work against the designating of any group as "Other." At this time of controversy surrounding the Islamic Cultural Center in New York, I thought I'd share my reflections with you and your audience.
When I think about the issue of "sacred ground" at the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, and what should occur on or around it, I think about the innumerable "ground zeroes" around the world, where loved ones of families we never hear of have died in unspeakable violence. I think about what monuments or markers do, or do not, exist to commemorate where they fell or burned or disintegrated. Despite the unspeakable trauma in New York, it strikes me as quite a luxury to be able to memorialize and sanctify such ground, a luxury afforded to only a very few grieving families, the world over.
After September 11, a number of innocent men, not just Muslim or Arab, but also Sikh, Hindu, South Asian, and others, were murdered in the U.S. by self-avowed 'patriot' vigilantes. I know the families of some of these victims. The widow of one works every day standing exactly where her husband was shot in cold blood, behind the counter of the service station he ran. There is no hushed and sacred ground there, except for an instant when momentary wisps of incense her father lights in the doorway each day fade away, just before the customers tramp through to pay for their gas, cigarettes, lottery tickets and sodas. Customers do remember and speak of the murdered man who was the soul of generosity -- a U.S. citizen who was Hindu, from India, who would let you drive away with a tank of gas and the promise that you'd pay him back if you didn't have money in your wallet that day. I suppose their memory is his memorial. Similarly, a Sikh family works every day where their loved one was slain, in Mesa, Arizona on September 15, 2001 by a killer who had vowed to "kill the ragheads responsible for 9/11," and instead murdered a sweet man wearing a turban as a tenet of his Sikh faith.
There is no memorial at the intersection where I live, where a black neighbor, was gunned down by a white supremacist in 1999, although we did organize nightly walks from the site, which folks attended for months, sometimes accompanied by the victim's wife and children, two of whom witnessed their father's shooting. There is a slight imprint of a leaf in the cement curb where he fell, (I think the curb was set before the murder), a coincidence that feels to me a tiny bit meaningful.
These are my thoughts when I read of the families of some of those who died in lower Manhattan, wanting "ground zero" and its environs (how far?) to be hallowed in a way that only the most privileged nations can afford. ..
Perfectly innocent people die daily as victims of what is referred to as "collateral damage" in dusty parts of the globe. Children disintegrate stumbling across minefields. All manner of mayhem and terrorism destroy lives, but somehow we imagine that those who were lucky enough to have lived and worked in New York apparently stand (figuratively, no longer literally) far apart from these multitudes of others, who were equally innocent, whose deaths were equally shocking, whose families loved them just as much and who also clawed at earth with bare hands trying desperately to rescue and recover them. ...
After 9/11 I felt compelled to reach out to the innocent families I mentioned above, and in the years since, I've watched the anti-Muslim drumbeat intensify in ways that impact multitudes of innocent people. All the Muslims I know are traumatized by the stereotyping and characterizations that are now rampant. Rather than celebrating 9/11 (as they have been accused), they despair of it. All of them fear; children being taunted and bullied, adults being more vulnerable in public and in the workplace. ...
Following a presentation, a student once whispered to me, "Thank you so much for your program. I'm Muslim, but no one here knows it." That sent chills down my spine, reminding me of historic times when people needed to try to "pass" to be safe. As a Jewish woman, the moment made me think of Anne Frank, and the disparity between the Nazi stereotypes of Jews, and the reality of the innocents who were slaughtered. It also made me think of the heroic non-Jewish friends who supported Anne's family in hiding, and the necessity of crossing divides to be allies for one another. ...
I would trust my Muslim and Hindu and Sikh friends with my life. I'm sure there are some Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Christians and others who might terrify me. In my experience there are wonderful people of all faiths, who claim their religion has taught them their values, and awful people of all faiths who also claim their religion has taught them their values. I am much more interested in meeting people than in labeling them. ...

 Anya Cordell, Author, RACE: An OPEN & SHUT Case

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