The Republican Area 51
(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.” - Erstwhile alternate historian Newt Gingrich in opposing the Cordoba Community Center on Fox
In a paraphrase of the old bromide against the Irish, it can be said that God invented Koolaid to prevent Americans from running the world for too long.
When people of other countries put their lives on the line in the act of defending their democracies and addressing real life or death issues, about the most I can expect of my fellow Americans is to color their Twitter avatars green and change their time zone to Tehran’s. At the end of the day, however, we find ourselves on the couch with a Red Bull in one hand and the remote in the other and tuning in to Fox “News” and ensuring that Rupert’s funhouse mirror dimension remains the highest-rated cable channel. And people wonder why I criticize my country so much.
Let me impress upon you one inescapable, incontrovertible, ineluctable fact: We are simply the stupidest and most willfully ignorant nation on earth. We’re the world’s biggest racial, national and religious melting pot yet the most bigoted. As Maureen Dowd reminded us yesterday, we panic in herds yet come to our senses, if we ever do, one at a time. Our eyes snap open like a doll’s when we’re alarmed yet when we awake from one soporific or another, we need to rub those eyes for a few minutes. Stupidity and ignorance has a much longer half life than truth and the facts. If stupidity was made of hydrogen and oxygen, our country would look like New Orleans the day after Katrina. And if racial or religious bigotry was gold, there’d be a rush of grubby Republican prospectors every year or so.
And need we look any farther than the biggest news story of the day, the “controversial” “mosque” at “Ground Zero” for a glimpse of how stupid we are? If you throw enough money for ink and pixels to convince an entire nation of something, even one as rich in colleges and universities as ours, you will sway public opinion at least temporarily. When the media blitz subsides, people slowly, very slowly, come to their senses. We see it with every election cycle because we depend on people to tell us what to think and for whom to vote as well as what buy, eat, drink and even how to fornicate. It’s hard to believe but it seems almost as many Americans are as ignorant as to what’s going on at Park51 as they are of Area 51.
Frank Rich also reminded us yesterday of the wildly vacillating poll numbers regarding the very religion of our president. A recent Pew poll showed that 18% of us still persist in believing that President Obama is Muslim, a number that was as low as 11% at his inauguration (long after McCain and RNC money stopped telling us what to think). Barely over a third of us know that Obama is Christian, down from nearly half in March '09. And the day after Pew published its results, Franklin Graham, who should never be put on television even to pitch juicers on QVC, told John King that Obama is both and "born a Muslim." This is not coincidental because it’s directly tied to the chief executive coming out two Fridays ago to support as he should’ve the Cordoba Community Center two blocks from Ground Zero.
The wingnut response was wearisomely predictable: “Well, if Obama’s all for it, should that surprise you? He is, after all, a refugee from a madrassa and a terrorist-coddling Muslim who wasn’t even born here.” Obama is Christian, is making progress on multiple fronts in the battle against terrorists and was born in the US. But the more stubborn and durable a lie is, the more it begins to resemble a truism because in this country, seniority equals legitimacy.
After we’d been pelted by catapulted propaganda, invading Iraq also seemed like a good idea as did Afghanistan a year and a half before that. Yet 31% of us still think we belong in Iraq and 38% of us feel the same way about Afghanistan despite trillions being thrown into these twin meat grinders that have produced hundreds of thousands of corpses, no real infrastructure providing even basic services to either nation, two corrupt Three Stooges parodies of democracy and no discernible enhancement of our national security.
But these shrill, strident Republican hate merchants like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich, without realizing it, find themselves in an absurd position: Smearing the name, character and allegiances of the same president who did exactly what they wanted him to do, which is to escalate the war in Afghanistan (and maintaining our crusade on Islam) and keep it going for years. Who cares that, after nearly a decade of trying, we can’t chase from one country a region-specific rump terrorist organization like the Taliban much less a global terrorist network like al Qaeda?
In the inevitable response to the outrage over Gingrich’s insanely stupid comments on Fox, he said in an email (emphasis mine), “Americans must learn to tell the truth about radical Islamists while being supportive of and inclusive of moderate Muslims who live in the modern world, respect women’s rights, reject medieval punishment and defend American laws and the American Constitution.”
One can surmise that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the community center’s driving force, isn’t included in Newt’s short list of “moderate Muslims who live in the modern world”, even if this particular one has helped bridge the gap between Islam and Christianity and Judaism for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Yet what else can one expect from someone so hypocritical and insensitive to others that even while he screamed for impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair he was diddling his own (younger) aide while his wife was recuperating in a cancer ward? Just once I’d like to see anyone, anyone publicly challenge any of these Republican organ grinders and their 100,000,000 Capucin monkeys to unpack their arguments just to prove there isn’t enough in there to fill a change purse.
And, as Frank Rich points out, Afghanistan’s precisely what the “controversy” is all about: It’s not the so-called mosque at Ground Zero that’s the issue to them: It’s the one-two punch of Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange throwing the moral purity and efficacy of Afghanistan into a harsh light. We got back at Hastings for his article on McChrystal by refusing to embed him with the troops (his Republican critics should at least give the man props for wanting to go to Iraq, which is more than we can say for most of them). We got back at Julian Assange by hounding him out of America all the way to Sweden and calling him a rapist in a Rovian whisper campaign.
What is this, high school where we spread rumors about our petty rivals being homosexuals and scrawl on bathroom stalls, “For great head, call 555-…”?
But we’ll always believe the sensational over the factual no matter how disingenuous or ill-sourced it is as long as it appears to have a point, especially one that pushes an emotional panic button. In this case, the point is, “Muslims knocked down our big buildings now ten years later they want to cockwand about it and dance in our end zone by putting up a mosque in the deepest part of Ground Zero.” That would be like us nuking Mecca or Medina and erecting a 100 story flaming cross in the middle of either. Ask the Saudis how they’d feel about that.
(As a personal sidebar, it’s notable that not one person of any consequence has publicly said, “Even if the Cordoba Center was put in the middle of Ground Zero, so what?”)
And the anti-Islamic rhetoric emanating from Fox sound stages is so amplified it would be easy for Muslim and Arab countries to mistake that for national consensus and to react accordingly. Indeed, to anyone outside the US following our news, they’d most immediately read about California’s Proposition 8, Arizona’s SB 1070 and the bipartisan nation-wide hysteria beginning in the seat of our government over a proposed Muslim community center and come to the same conclusion that we in the reality-based community have: That we are still very much a nation of homophobic, xenophobic, white Christian fascists. This is the hopey changey thingie Sarah Palin was so scared about?
Those of us who actually graduated kindergarten know that there’s no mosque in the proposed Cordoba Community Center but a small prayer room, it’s going to be two blocks from Ground Zero and within the same perimeter are places that are more objectionable yet equally legitimate such as the New York Doll’s Gentleman’s Club (a strip joint, to the poor and middle class) pictured above. Putting up the Cordoba Center would facilitate the creation of a much-needed private pre-school for children of all faiths. Plus, its two block proximity could even be close enough to begin to heal the widening divide between Muslims and our nation’s other faiths and denominations, a schism that was perfectly delineated by the nine year-old gaping hole where the Twin Towers had once stood.
Conveniently not mentioned is jailbird Bernie Kerik’s little love shack overlooking the devastation, all but 12 Republican congressmen voting against aid to 9/11 rescue workers, George W. Bush’s casual dismissal of hard, specific and prescient intelligence warning him of the attacks to come or the militant, crusading Christian evangelizing of our military in direct contradiction to the Constitution so beloved of Gingrich and with belligerent disrespect to other religions and the choice of none.
Rich is right: If McCain was in office, the right wing would be just as silent about the Cordoba Community Center as it was in the first five months after news about it broke. But now that we have a guy with a Muslim/African-sounding name in the Oval Office, it’s an issue when the president was forced to elevate a neighborhood matter to a national one in an effort to reassert some common sense in our immature, stupid country.
And we need at all times a president who will honor in both word and deed the laws and principles that distinguish us as a country, not one who has to waste his valuable time reminding us what those laws and principles are.