Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obama Talks About Ground Zero Mosque Without Talking About Ground Zero Mosque

Echoing my comments during British prime minister David Cameron's trip to Washington regarding both his and President Obama's lack of anger and emotion while talking about BP's cancerous presence in the Gulf, President Barack Obama needs to drop the professorial and calm demeanor when talking about things that are so laden with logic and common-sense and are somehow being debated in the national dialogue. In his Friday evening comments on the Ground Zero Mosque, President Obama spoke in hypothetical and vague terms, declining to specifically address the issues surrounding the Cordoba House.

In very careful wording, Obama stated, "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." He never mentions the specific project and makes sure everything remains vague enough so people cannot point to him specifically and say, "Hey, Obama said to build the Ground Zero Mosque. He must hate America."

Nevertheless, people have taken his remarks as an explicit endorsement of the Ground Zero Mosque, which they are not. In fact, Obama took the time out of his family vacation on Saturday to make sure people knew he was not commenting on the Ground Zero Mosque: "I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.” This has not stopped politicians on both sides of the issue to say Obama has endorsed the Ground Zero Mosque.

He has not, nor should he, endorse the mosque. However, if he is going to speak about this issues he does need to stand up and say specifically that the Cordoba House, which is really more along the lines of a 92nd Street Y than a mosque, has the right to specifically build at Park51. It is private property and the owners of said private property can do whatever they want with it. And yet again, as I discussed last week, New York's elected officials (minus Senator Gillibrand and Representative Nadler) remained silent along with many national Democrats, even while Obama took flak from the usual suspects.

This whole thing reminds me of a debate in the Boston suburb of Walpole back in May regarding the display of a Confederate flag outside of a public high school playing field. The display was on private property, and as much as I detest the Confederate flag and what it stands for, the right of the homeowner to display it is, redundantly, his right. No one is asking people to agree with Cordoba House, no one is asking people to love it and cherish it, all they have to do is recognize its right to exist on private property.

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