Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010

NYC Postcard

I found this postcard in a used bookstore last week. It was postmarked in 1975. Of course, this skyline changed on September 11, 2001. That was a frightening day even from relatively far off Chicago. That day I kept checking to assure myself that the Sears Tower was still standing and worried for the safety of my children and the world. Of course we all know the consequences of that day, from lives lost, to a mess in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, to more closed borders and more painful air travel.
But I feel a need to state my opposition to the recent politics regarding the "Ground Zero site" and the proposed location of a mosque near by. The rhetoric I hear troubles me deeply and I fear that the move to restrict the location of a mosque near the Ground Zero site represents a frightening move to restrict religious freedom in this country.
I have revealed before that I am Jewish. One might think that Jews and Muslims don't necessarily see eye-to-eye in this world and that certainly can be true at times. Nonetheless we share something in common. We are both minority groups in a Christian majority country. If this majority loses respect for religious pluralism, not only Muslims will suffer.
Our country was founded on principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state as well as many other noble ideals. Yet more and more we hear from a vocal Christian element that hopes to restrict our freedom-- to choose the people we date or marry, to regulate our fertility, to read whatever books we please, to maintain our textbooks and our science in a religion neutral manner and to freely place our religious institutions wherever it is reasonable and legal to do so.

An oft quoted poem (somewhat controversially because it has shifted and altered over time) attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller, a German Holocaust survivor, speaks about standing up for people of different ideology than one's own.

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

Substitute in Muslims, gays, Mexican Americans, African Americans, atheists or any other group, non-Christian, non-white or somehow deemed unacceptable to the political right, and the poem still holds in a future that can scare folks like me who are proudly American but less sure of our welcome in 2009. So here I am speaking up for the Muslims, at the risk of incurring hateful comments on my blog. My great-grandparents came to this country over 100 years ago to escape oppression and find opportunity. The world has changed since then but the desire for freedom and opportunity have not.


Karen said...

very well stated.

Rayne said...

I agree. Very well stated indeed. My grandparents came to this country from two different countries. My grandmother's family from Russia (they were Jewish and things were getting bad) and my Grandfather's family from Ireland. The British decided they needed his family's land so they had to go.
America offered them something no other country could, and so it should be for others, too.