Well, no, I wasn’t there on September 11, 2001. I wasn’t even downtown: I lived on the other side of the country and all that day at work we had no access to a television, and were not permitted to scurry around the Internet for images. But I have managed to see live re-broadcast and more since that day, too much more. I even purchased Paul Greengrass’ United 93.
So after nine years piling upon the worst one of my life (and already having built a little over half a century therein), I ask you, regarding this mosque: what’s your point? You already know this country will not deny you the right if zoning laws and building restrictions permit. You could probably amass a construction team out of the media pundits defending you and your rights. So what? You got one up and running in the Midwest next to a Christian church and your efforts brought a welcome sign and more media. But you seem to stand stiffly against any citizens voicing objection to the future existence of this one, which will be within view of what Americans now know as Ground Zero.
Ground Zero. I had forgotten that such was the name for terrain stripped bare by nuclear fission: it seems fitting to me now. Frankly, I have never seen such violence as what burst forth that morning of 9/11 with two major aircraft forcing themselves into high-rises. Tanks filled to the brim required for a cross-country guaranteed monster explosions and enough ignition to sustain the heat that would too soon melt the steel that made up the vertebrae of these 110- story skyscrapers. A brilliant plan with near perfect execution: the buildings did, after a time, disintegrate. The “World Trade Center” of international renown was gone.
Clueless passengers would have to be mourned. Human carcasses would have to be scraped from the pavement, since some could only opt out of the fires by jumping, and many did. What thoughts possess the human mind as it falls from that many stories (American Airlines #11 hit the North Tower somewhere around the 80th level) may make their way into a future poem, but I doubt it. There was alot of time for talk during the broadcast that possessed the networks for over 24 hours and enough was said about numbers: possibly ten thousand were in each of those towers on a regular workday, possibly that number plus firefighters would perish. Against that looming horror, the actual death toll seemed some grace from God: but it didn’t temper the violence of the act. I still cry, and I did not, unlike so many others, suffer any personal loss there and then. I just cry.
There were some awfully young men who stepped out that morning to board planes and execute plans that must have required much aggression and shouting. In Greengrass’ film there was alot of Allahu Akbar in prayer before they even arrived at the airports. A suicide bomber mentality escapes me; just as Japan’s kamikaze during World War II, but I’d shrink back from calling it crazy. It is one’s life that one must sacrifice for the mission, and apparently what becomes part of the empowerment is that nobody steps from the fire a hero. But what seems also guaranteed is that the goal involves innocent victims: a 4-year old girl was on one of the planes. My priceless grandson is barely five.
Retribution, in my opinion, is always a valid argument, though I hear the stringed instruments as they background Christ’s infinite forgiveness, and acknowledge its elegant simplicity. But I do feel that on many of the world’s diverse stages, America has behaved badly. Arrogance is usually the word that takes the lead: we have needs and they must be met. Many in the Islamic spheres have suffered in service to that assumption, although much of the rhetoric flying the airwaves now insists that the Islamic religion is not our enemy, but only the extremists moving within the walls of its doctrine who exact our suffering. Of course, 9/11 was proof of that, since Muslims died in those towers, too. These particular individuals cannot be brought to the negotiation table when destruction is their primary motivator. So America seems clear in her focus on precisely whom war has been declared, and reiterates tirelessly. Fair enough.
Really, I am not interested in the voices of protest against this mosque, the reckless posters, witless banners and ugly masks because I confess I have seen too much of that of late displayed over a very tragically unfolding economic compression that has forced our knees to buckle while we clamor for a scapegoat. Nonsense reigns and anything or anybody will do. So I ask you again: what’s your point? You can see that America is suffering terribly these days, and yet in that midst while she is insisting on any number of mindless demonstrations against your plans, she is also protecting your right to continue with those plans. Freedom can be an unbearable paradox.
But the vapors from Ground Zero will haunt for a long time. The presence of your mosque will not dilute them; encouragement from Americans to build it will not clear from their memory the horror of that act, on that now infamous day. There has not to date been a more devastating event on mainland America, and its disassociation with Islam can only be achieved by lobotomy. You can move freely in this country as citizen, visitor or energized new immigrant: please, do so with our blessing. All I ask is that you not insist on gathering your disciples around the corner from the site wherein another group of your believers insisted on such carnage. For you can no more turn out a member of the Islamic faith bent on terror than Christians can ban the revenge-borne Reverend Terry Jones from a seat in their congregations.
We just hope he will have the compassionate courtesy not to show up.