The "Ground Zero Mosque" or The Right to Be Offended

Note: This blog entry is full of snark.


I cannot stop laughing.

I have to keep laughing at this whole situation, otherwise I will go insane.

There are a number of reasons I think it's perfectly okay to build the "GZM" (for short), most important of which is that objections have absolutely no basis in law. There is no legal reason that can keep them from building that mosque, mainly because of a pesky little thing called the First Amendment.
You see, the beauty of America so many Patriots (with a capital P) celebrate is our freedoms - I have the RIGHT to read that book. I have the RIGHT to play that guitar. I have the RIGHT to use that word.

You do. Within reason. Just like the landmark Supreme Court Case Schenck vs. United States of 1919 determined, you are allowed freedom of speech insofar as it does not bring harm to another person or infringe upon their rights. The famous metaphor used to describe this ruling is not shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, when there is no fire. This puts your fellow citizens at risk.

What appears to be happening now, though, is that we take freedom of speech and freedom of religion to mean freedom from offense. "You can't build that mosque there! It offends me!" "You can't say that! It offends me!" I admit, I may be guilty of the latter (I frequently request that friends don't say "retarded" around me because of the offense), but I'm not going to sue them over it.

Members of both parties seem to misinterpret the idea of freedom of speech to mean either of two extremes: 1. You can't say anything that might offend another human being, or 2. I have the absolute and total right to say whatever the hell I want, and screw you if you get offended.

Finding a balance between the two is damn hard, but I think it becomes easier when we consider it from a "love your neighbor" point of view. While I may not like the racist characterization of Muslims that I find being flung back and forth during the discussion of the misnamed Ground Zero Mosque (more aptly, "the Islamic Community Center [a YMMA, of sorts] that happens to be near ground zero but still a few blocks a way and not at all visible from the site"...but that doesn't quite roll off the tongue), I fully support your right to say them if that is how you truly feel.

Will I encourage you to examine the issue and think about it more closely? (adopting a Palin voice): YOU BETCHA!

Will I attempt to show you in what ways you are wrong? (repeat Palinism).

Will I tell you to shut up because you've "offended me"? No. No I won't. I might stop listening, but I won't tell you to shut up.

And see that's what's ironic about this whole thing: People all over the United States are making the point of how important these first amendment rights like speech, religion, assembly and petition by exercising them in a way that is offensive to others, as they are attempting to block one of the freedoms from a group that is potentially offensive to a much smaller group of people.

After all, the thoughts and very loud opinions of the majority trumps the rights of the minority, right?

Worked for Civil Rights in the South.

Worked for Women's Suffrage in NYC.

Worked for freeing the slaves after the Civil War.

Oh wait.

No, my bad. In each one of those instances, the voice of the minority was shown to be just as valuable, and just as protected as the majority. It seems to me that we're all on equal footing when it comes to these practices of our freedoms and liberties.

Huh. So I suppose this is the America I was born in - one where, hopefully, the voice that is loudest (corporations with deep pockets, the richest 2%, the one with a cable channel with the highest amount of viewers) isn't the one who gets to dictate policy all the time. It's an America where the little man, hopefully, has the same right to state his opinion into the din that is our political discourse. It's an America where the rights of the minority aren't always trampled by an oppressive majority. It's an America where even the people who offend and whom you offend are on equal footing, and each get to have their say.

We are so lucky to have a voice, even if it does produce that awful, awful inexplicably stupid song I posted above.

"I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing about Voltaire