Saunders

Saunders: Rights apply to all of us

Staff WriterAugust 24, 2010 

Boy, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Here I was, about to join the indignant masses in loud opposition to the mosque being built at ground zero, when I actually decided to do what many of the opponents apparently haven't done: I studied the issue.

Turns out, the mosque is not being built on what most Americans probably agree is hallowed ground - the site where the Twin Towers fell on 9/11.

Oh yeah: Turns out it's not a mosque, either. It's a community center. Of course, calling it that doesn't spark the angry confrontations that lead to compelling television news shots.

Even people with open minds who can read without moving their lips might have thought it a bit presumptuous and insensitive had Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf actually proposed constructing the building - which will indeed contain a prayer room, but also a restaurant and basketball court, among other things - right on ground zero. The little-reported truth, though, is that the site is two blocks north of the World Trade Center.

That fact is so little-reported that various polls show between 60 percent and 70 percent of Americans oppose it. Would those numbers be so high if more people knew that the community center - not mosque - also had places to work on your jump shot, grab a meal, perhaps even play shuffleboard? (Sorry, but that's the game people of my generation associate most with community centers.)

That the building isn't actually on ground zero is irrelevant to some of the opposition, which would be equally incensed if a McDonald's hamburger joint was proposed for the site.

Judging by the contorted rhetoric and faces of another group of opponents, there is nowhere in America - nay, on Earth - they'd be satisfied to have a mosque being built.

Too bad.

Either we're a nation of laws or we're not.

Part of being an American means having to make room for unpopular beliefs and yes, structures, just as part of being an American is going to your city council or zoning commission and opposing those structures.

This is, after all, where the whole NIMBY - not in my backyard - movement started, even though it has at times led to tyranny of the few by the many and vice versa.

But even with those abuses, NIMBY is a uniquely American expression.

You know Soviets weren't thrilled to have the Chernobyl nuclear plant built next door, but could you imagine them out carrying signs denouncing a government policy?

How people choose to worship is of little concern to me. If you belong to a cult that worships old Z.Z. Hill album covers, that's your business.

Still, I wouldn't want a mosque next door to my house.

Nor would I want a Catholic or Methodist church next door, either, because I like to play my Al Green loudly - sometimes on Sunday - and I like wine.

A Baptist church next door wouldn't be so bad: Baptists like Al Green, too.

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service