I have not weighed in on the controversial plans to build a Mosque overlooking the site of the 9/11 attack, but there are important psychological elements at work in this controversy.
First, a slight digression: Last week my friend Steve sent me an e-mail which contained a series of pictures of new bridges either built or being built in China. The bridges were amazing structures, the product of engineering expertise and imagination that was quiet impressive. The Hangzhou River Bridge was particularly impressive:
The "Cordoba" Mosque is either a reference to a period in European history when Islam was tolerant and there was peaceful co-existence between Christianity and Islam in Europe, or a sign of Islamic triumphalism celebrating the greatest extent of Islamic penetration of Europe up until now. I do know that sensitive people do not purposely propose to build monuments that offend a significant proportion of their neighbors; whether those who are offended are narrow minded or super-sensitive, too limited to share the elevated sensibilities of our Mayor and others, is a difficult question. Perhaps the opponents are being overly sensitive. If so, why does that mean we should ignore their sensitivities; after all, isn't the very basis of PC and its offspring, such as hate speech laws, the idea that the sensitivities of "victims" should always trump other considerations? My slight efforts at irony should not disguise the fact that a Mosque, run by an Imam who reportedly has ties to radical Islamists, is offensive to many Americans who remember 9/11. An Islamic group determined to improve relations with their neighbors would certainly be wise to find a less disturbing location for their religious and cultural facility.
The location of the Mosque and the persistence of its leaders despite the distress its location has evoked in its neighbors suggests that they may not be acting in good faith. (David Harsanyi has an excellent perspective on the problem: How Is This Tolerance?)
However one conceptualizes the controversy, what saddens me the most is the recognition that it is highly likely that the Cordoba Mosque (the financing of which is so far hidden) will be built well before the 9/11 Freedom Tower. We are acting as if we are a tired, insecure, risk averse, and fading society; I firmly believe we can rebound, but that must wait for leadership we do not currently have.