Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Came to Cordoba

All I wanted to do was buy some turkey.

I walked into a butcher shop in Bay Ridge yesterday and found myself in the middle of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.

Now, of course, it isn’t a mosque and it isn’t located at Ground Zero, and there already two mosques located in the neighborhood—along with a topless bar. And the politically motivated lies, distortions, and blatant fear mongering being spewed on the airwaves and the Internet bear absolutely no resemblance to a debate. Now back to the butcher shop...

I was buying some cold cuts and pasta when the cashier—we’ll call her Maggie—rang up my order and then promptly whipped out a newspaper to show me a story about the first Muslim Miss USA who happens to believe that the Islamic cultural center should move from its planned location on Park Place.

"You see," she said. "This woman's a Muslim and she thinks they shouldn't build it there."

What this has to do with the price of eggs—or sliced turkey in this case—I have no idea. I didn’t ask Maggie for her opinion, I didn’t offer mine; in fact I didn’t say a word about the cultural center or anything else. I just went in there to get some food—a common occurrence at butcher shops.

I have a lot of laughs with Maggie most days when I go in there, but I have a little rule: if you subject me to your political views, well, chuckles, you’re going to hear mine.

“They have right to be there,” I said.

“No, they don’t!”

“Oh, yes, they do.”

“It shouldn’t be at Ground Zero.”

“It’s not at Ground Zero.”

And it went downhill from there. Every time I tried to speak, Maggie would interrupt me or just say the opposite. It was rather frustrating.

Now let’s get a few things clear. I stood across the street from the World Trade Center on September 11. I saw the towers come down and I walked over the Manhattan Bridge with thousands of other stranded people while the rubble smoldered behind us and fighter jets flew overhead.

It was the most horrible day of my life, so if you plan on giving me a lecture about the evils of radical Islamic terrorists, save your breath. I had a front row seat.

I work near the site of proposed center and walked over to 51Park, formerly Cordoba House, on Thursday to see what this latest ersatz controversy is about.

That’s all we seem to have lately—furious screaming and hand-wringing about counterfeit “issues.” It’s a good thing we don’t have any real problems—you know, like unemployment, oil spills, or wars without end, amen. No, we’ve got plenty of time for this horse manure.

There was a small group of people milling around the place—the former Burlington Coat Factory--including a police officer who was apparently on hand if trouble broke out. There’s a nice waste of taxpayer money.

I saw a reporter from WNYC, my favorite radio station, standing outside the building. I was walking away when I stopped to look at some chalk writing on the sidewalk.

“Excuse me, sir,” someone said behind me. “I’m a reporter with WNYC…”

I turned around there he was—microphone in hand, headphones covering his ears. I’ve been a reporter for 20 very odd years, so I know what it’s like to interview people at the scene of some big news event. Sometimes they curse you out, sometimes they walk away, and sometimes they won’t stop talking.

So now it was my turn to be interviewed. The guy wanted to know what I thought of the cultural center and I told him the same thing I told Maggie the cashier.

“These people have a right to be here…” I began.

This was my third media interview of the year, following the New York Times, story about the Cyclone and CNN—the fourth, really, since I was featured on both CNN’s website and TV for a story about my father's poem. I’m such a popular guy.

Mad Man on The Street

I’m not sure what I told the reporter—I was babbling pretty seriously. And I don't know if they even used it. But at least the guy didn't interrupt me.

This whole business infuriates me because once again it uses the victims of 9/11 and the fear of all things Muslim as political pawns.

Apparently a large number of Americans have forgotten how George “Mission Accomplished” Bush and Dick “Draft Dodger” Cheney swaggered this country into the war in Iraq by conflating the nightmare of 9/11 with Saddam Hussein.

Now if you’ve been paying attention, then you know that there were never any weapons of mass destruction, no connection between bin Laden and Hussein, and, oh, by the way, how’s that hunt for Osama going?

The war was, of course, a shameless bid to take over the Iraqi oil fields that had been put together by a group of oilmen. You would have thought that Americans would have gotten a better handle on the anti-Muslim fever after that fiasco, but it’s worse than ever.

And for those of you who hate Muslims so much, you may want to ask little Georgie Bush about his family’s close ties to the Saudi royal family. You know Saudi Arabia—that country that won’t allow churches and synagogues? You may remember that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Or you could ask Rupert Murdoch, CEO of the “fair and balanced” News Corp, which has been fanning the flames of hatred, about Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family who is the second largest owner of News Corp. stock, valued at about $2.3 billion.

This fellow has deep funding ties to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the “principal planner” of the Islamic community center. Instead of protesting at Park51 today, the anti-mosque crowd should have gone up to Fox News.

Oh, by the way, did you hear how Fox mouthpiece Glenn Beck used 911 to push one of his sponsors. Talk about disrespecting the memory of the victims...

Some people are angry with Barack Obama for speaking about this cultural center, but I’m furious that he pulled back on his words the next day.

The President of the United States is supposed to bring us together, not drive us apart. I know that may be hard to believe after the Bush Administration, but, really, that’s what good presidents do.

That raging imbecile Sarah Palin felt free to stick her “refudiating” nose into controversy. And speaking of presidents minding their own business, am I the only one who remembers the Terry Schiavo debacle, when George Bush flew up from Texas to sign legislation “saving” a woman who had been declared brain dead?

It’s interesting that Bush received a memo prior to 911 saying that bin Laden was determined to strike in the United States. He didn’t fly up from Texas for that, did he? But when it comes to appeasing radical Christian fundamentalists, Georgie was right there front and center.

Then there’s the survey that shows even more Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. You can almost hear those dueling banjos.

I continued arguing with Maggie as I got my change and walked out the door. This was ridiculous. I don’t care what the subject is, I will not be harangued and I will not be shouted down. It never ceases to amaze me how those who bellow so loudly about “our freedoms” are the first ones to stifle dissent.

I think we have a chance to show our greatness here, to demonstrate how we’re not like the Islamic radicals.

I'm thinking of going to another butcher shop, but perhaps I'll return to my regular place. They've got some nice ready-cooked meals that are come in handy when I don't feel making dinner myself.

I think I can handle Maggie, but if I run into Miss USA, I'm going to pelt her with cold cuts.


eagle said...

The news of building a mosque at ground zero is just to distract the majority of American moderate people from the criminal act that terry jones is up to. As the 911 is an inside job there is no point in accusing muslims of being killers. And as far as I'm concerned, I'd like to kill terry jones myself for what he is doing. terry jones and his followers are taking america to a war now, and this time I don't think america would not be hurt. terry jones is the real culprit behind all this. The mosque is not being built at ground zero at all, it's just a propaganda going on. (just to distract as I've mentioned).


bonnie said...

I was MOST disappointed when Obama backed down. Would've stood up & cheered for him & Bloomberg both.

Lazio's comment about "not turning our backs on the victims of 9/11" is just GROSS. The victims of 9/11 were such a perfect cross-section of society - I think many of the victims I knew (many former co-workers) would have been appalled if they could hear their memories being used to justify such intolerance.

Thank you for a good post, Rob. Bizarre that a merchant would just drag a customer into something like that unprovoked.

Rob K said...

It's a sign of desperation, Bonnie. Insecure people need to ram their opinions down your throat. And Lazio is a spineless little weasel who will say ANYTHING to get elected.

Calamity Jen said...

Terrific post, Rob. If only more people actually bothered to learn the facts before forming opinions.