By Phil Maymin, 2006 Libertarian candidate for U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut’s 4th congressional district. Forwarded by Marc Montoni via email.
When it comes to the mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York City, everyone is pretending to be something they’re not.
Perhaps for the first time since Grover Cleveland, a Democratic president is championing private property rights, states’ rights and a limited federal government. Barack Obama endorsed the right of Muslims “to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and regulation.”
Has Obama, of all people, flipped through the Constitution and achieved a clearer understanding of the first, ninth and tenth amendments?
No, it is merely a mask. Otherwise, he would repeal a host of invasive laws. Your First Amendment guarantees to free travel, association, speech and religion are violated whenever your naked body is scanned at an airport, your political book club’s reading list is secretly inspected, your phone is tapped without a warrant or your tax dollars are funneled to religious groups and nations that actively fight against your own sacred beliefs. If Obama were sincere, he would end those intrusions and more.
What could or should Obama have said instead? He could have said nothing. It is simply not his place.
This is a rare quality, to be sure. The only politician (other than Ron Paul) who I have ever heard say that something was not his decision was Jesse Ventura, when he was governor of Minnesota. Asked by a reporter about some private entity, though he obviously had a strong personal opinion, Ventura’s response was simple and clear. “It is not my call,” he essentially said. “It is not within my duties as governor.”
Obama could have answered as Ventura did. Instead he chose to inflict his unsolicited opinion on us.
Deep in his heart Obama still denies the intended limited role of the federal government. He thinks it, and he, should be everywhere. He does not fathom that some things are just not his call, whether they be banks, car companies, foreign nations or where LeBron James should have taken his talents.
Most other Democrats actually are silent, refusing to go on the record, probably because they feel, and rightly so, that whatever they say will be used against them. But ironically this silence is a mask for them too. They have donned it not as a principled stand for local autonomy, but purely out of fear for their careers.
Democrats are not alone in their hypocrisy. Republicans who have spent the past decade preaching the need to spread democracy abroad are now upset that democratic institutions at home prevent them from successfully meddling. Republicans have called the project an “unnecessary provocation,” an example of “territorial conquest,” and “an aggressive act that is clearly offensive.” But they don’t really think the mosque is a truly violent act. If they did, they would seek to file charges or sue for damages. No, they just want to ride our emotions to get back in power and continue expanding the American empire.
Even libertarians are hiding behind a mask of tolerance. Citing basic property rights, they argue anybody can build a mosque on any property they own and there is nothing anyone can or should do about it. They are right about the first part, but deeply wrong about the second. There is nothing wrong with voicing disapproval for the mosque. It is an expression of free speech. They may build, but we may protest. True tolerance does not mean you approve of everyone; it means you do not do violence even to those of whom you disapprove.
So far, I too have been hiding behind a mask, the mask of indifference and neutrality, as if I am above these petty issues. But unlike the others, my mask will now come off.
I am deeply offended by the project, for two reasons. First, it strikes me as an ugly ploy. Any religious or political entity that intends to launch on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 seems disingenuous to me, more interested in its own publicity than in actually doing good.
Second, the name of the entity is nasty. They intend to call it the Cordoba House and the sponsors call themselves the Cordoba Initiative, both named after the city in Spain where, they say, Jews, Christians, and Muslims co-existed peacefully. Theirs is the most contemptible mask of all, because what they don’t say is how that peace ended. Fundamentalist Muslims gave all its residents a choice: convert to Islam or die. My great-great-great-…-grandfather Maimonides took his family and fled. In my mind, the name Cordoba does not conjure images of peace and co-existence.
By their logic, they would see nothing wrong with opening a German cultural center in downtown Tel Aviv called the Dachau House. After all, there was a time when Jews and Gentiles lived peaceably side-by-side in that pleasant Munich suburb
Dr. Phil Maymin is a professor of risk management at the NYU-Polytechnic Institute.
Previously at IPR on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (New York candidates for Governor in bold): Ron Paul, Mike Beitler, Howie Hawkins, Jake Towne, Warren Redlich video, John Jay Myers, Darryl Perry, Wayne Root (1) and (2), John Hospers, Reactions to Root’s piece from the libertarian blogosphere, LNC member Daniel Wiener, Tom Knapp, Kristin Davis, Warren Redlich (print commentary), Carl Paladino, and LPHQ interns Marissa Giannotta and Josh Roll.