How close is too close to Ground Zero?

The argument over the Islamic Center proposed near Ground Zero seems to center on the theory that Muslims should be sensitive to how sacred Americans consider the area.

Aside from the fact that many Muslims are Americans, following this logic would dictate all buildings in which a Catholic priest works or lives should be no closer than… what, three blocks from a school? Five blocks? A mile?

Yes, I know all priests aren’t pedophiles but then, all Muslims aren’t terrorists either. It’s about being sensitive.

It goes without saying that Germans can’t build anything near a Jewish school or synagogue because, after all, there was that whole Holocaust thing a few decades ago. I understand some Jewish people are still pretty sensitive about Germany’s attempt to wipe them off the face of the earth.

Continuing this logic, all Japanese should be forced to relocate if their Shinto Temples in Hawaii are anywhere near Pearl Harbor. Conversely, any American citizens worshipping in a building at or near Hiroshima and Nagasaki should probably start packing too.

I’m guessing no Christian church should be built near a woman’s health center since it was Christian extremists who thought gunning down doctors was an honorable thing to do. Yes, I know. Not all Christians are extremists or terrorists. It’s about the sensitivity.

Native Americans might have an argument here that no non-Native American should be allowed to build any place of worship near any former Native American lands seeing as how we basically tried to wipe them out to justify taking their real estate. If we just limited this to areas along the Trail of Tears, we’d cut quite a swath through a lot of prime real estate that I’m sure Native-Americans would be happy to reclaim. But we should endure this land return without complaint because it’s about being sensitive to people you’ve harmed.

You think showing respect for the horrors we perpetrated on the grandparents and great-grandparents of Native Americans carries things too far because it happened so long ago? Are you saying that the lives lost at Ground Zero are more valuable than those lost on the Trail of Tears because more years have passed? Just how long is too long ago? And how soon is too soon?

We’re offended at the thought of an Islamic Center being built near Ground Zero and yet weren’t offended when George Bush walked his Texas ranch holding hands with a Saudi prince. Did we forget that 11 of the terrorists flying planes into buildings on 9/11 were Saudis? I guess it’s convenient to forget when remembering would be inconvenient to our need for their oil.

Muslims are no more responsible for what extremists do in the name of Islam than Christians are for that nut job in Florida who wanted to burn Korans.  And they have no more control over the actions of the extremists in their midst than Christians do over the minister who shows up with his congregation at the funerals of fallen soldiers holding signs that say their god is glad the soldier is dead.

The only thing most people have control over is their own life. And the only way most people have to influence the world around them so that the extremists don’t win is to live a good life. That does not include threatening to burn down an Islamic Center or in any way harming the people who would worship there.

I know this is a political season and the temptation will be for pandering politicians to jump on the hate bandwagon in the hope of pulling in a few more votes. We need to resist them and the urge to follow the banner of hate.

There are over a billion people who believe in Islam in this world. Many live in America. The majority are kind and reasonable people who want only what we all want, a chance to live a decent life and raise our family in peace and security.  The few thousand who are extremists need to be dealt with for what they are, murderers and terrorists.

But we don’t win the war by letting them divide us against ourselves. And that’s what we’re doing right now in New York City.

By being intolerant, we become like the terrorists. In doing so, we hand them victory.