by Constance Daley
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 9, 2010
FROM GETTYSBURG TO HIROSHIMA TO GROUND ZERO
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- A few days ago American Ambassador to Japan John Roos attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Japan. On his second visit to Hiroshima, the first by an American ambassador, he expressed respect for all the victims of World War 11.
"For the sake of future generations, we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons," he said in a press release that on this day, the 65th anniversary of the World War II bombing that hurried the end of the war, "it is fitting that we renew our determination to ensure that such a conflict is never again repeated."
During the first week of August, the news was inundated with protests over the proposed mosque to be built at Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once towered over the famous skyline of New York City. On a beautiful September day in 2001, the WTC was destroyed by radical Islamists, taking the lives of some 3,000 innocent people in the buildings, on the ground and among those still dying slow deaths today after being first responders or volunteering to work in the debris.
A quick scan of Muslim mosques and community centers show 849 in the United States; the greatest Muslim population is in California, with a high percentage in New York in proportion to other states. No one has bothered them and they have not bothered anyone else. The radical Islamics are to be held accountable for terrorism, not the Muslims among us.
I believe the protests against the mosque at Ground Zero are aimed at not allowing fellow citizens the right to practice their faith. In this case, the site was chosen to express peace, rather than "as a stab in the heart," as Sarah Palin said. I would expect people to study the plan and think it through.
Along with our freedom of religion, protected under the Bill of Rights in our Constitution, everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. That right to our opinion must not be at the expense of someone else's right.
What is not to understand? In a news item on immigration this morning I learned that more people are trying to become citizens of the United States than of any other country in the world. I'd suggest it's because they know we're fair. The long list of those wanting will mean it will be a long time before they are called. Many are impatient, and we're in a generation where impatience is on the side of the would-be citizens.
I recall a line from Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, that suggests (I paraphrase), "it's always those at the banquet who bar the door against others trying to enter." He was writing about right to life, not immigration, but it seems apt to me.
I'm quick to grant the right to everyone to have their own opinion, and yet my own doesn't fit with those protesting to deny the right to build a mosque or standing up for the right to build it on the grounds of religious freedom.
My preference is to leave it as a memorial park, much like Shakespeare's Garden in Central Park. It would be a place for the survivors to comfortably remember their loved ones. At the same time, the ground remains hallowed ground. My opinion is based on the idea that not all the "remains" of the victims were found. Deep below what once was rubble there is more than one shard of bone, or hank of hair. Enduring respect is called for.
There is a precedent for what I suggest. The late Cliff Arquette, patriarch of a now popular family of actors, lived near Gettysburg, Pa. He spoke on a late-night talk show about the proposed sale of the Gettysburg Battlefield to developers of a shopping mall.
Arquette was heading a fund-raising committee and asked us to buy one foot of the battlefield for $5.00. I now have the deed framed on the wall behind me. The land was purchased from the government and now belongs to those of us who paid $5.00 a square foot. I'm more proud of that deed than the one to our home.
The last words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address are: "...that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I can't sing our national anthem without a smile or a tear. It was sung long before hate crimes came into our parlance. Oh, we had bigots and racists, but hate with destruction aforethought was not what it has become. We all wanted then what we all want now. We want to hear freedom ring.
Remember these lyrics from a more innocent, loving time?