Conservatives Offer Compromise on Ground Zero Mosque

by Michael Bérubé on August 18, 2010

Conservative leaders issued a series of statements today to try to resolve the growing tensions over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” planned for lower Manhattan.

“We’re being cast as opponents of religious freedom,” said blogger Pamela Geller, “and that’s not fair.  We’re just saying that this is a highly sensitive matter and a very important place for us.  We’re all about freedom.  And to prove it, we propose that the location of the Ground Zero mosque should be dedicated, instead, to a Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons.  We were very pro-freedom when those cartoons were published, and we think it would be appropriate if the site were to serve as a memorial to that watershed moment in the history of freedom.”

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin agreed, noting that “Americans felt stabbed in the back when Daneland refudiated the First Amendment.”  In a followup post on her Facebook page, ex-governor Palin added, “Mohammed Cartoon Museum wd be a reduff to the terrorists—religious freedom is great, but people need to respect each other’s sensitivities too.  Why can’t the Islams understand that?”

Former House speaker and leading conservative intellectual Newt Gingrich weighed in, saying that President Obama’s defense of the mosque was “a betrayal of American traditions and an affront to the Constitution.”  “This is a test of the timidity, passivity, and historic ignorance of American elites,” Gingrich said, echoing remarks he had made earlier.  “The original plans for the site were, as I have pointed out, a deliberate insult to Americans.  Obama’s endorsement of this outrage is not only ignorant but anti-American.  There’s no way a great American president like George Washington would have given his approval to a bunch of swarthy unbelievers who wanted to build a house of worship on American soil.  The Mohammed Cartoon Museum, by contrast, is a way for us to acknowledge Islam without having a mosque shoved down our throats.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat seconded Gingrich, writing that “the Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons would be the perfect vehicle to foster Muslim-American assimilation.  The American experiment has always been about assimilating different ethnic and cultural traditions to the Anglo-Saxon mainstream.  I went to Harvard, so when I tell you that the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was crucial to the swift assimilation of Asian immigrants, or that the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 gave time for immigrants to assimilate by keeping them out of the country, you can trust me.  If they are going to move out of the pluribus and into the unum, American Muslims need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.  They need leaders who will build the Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons as a monument to Western ideals of freedom of expression.”

Political analyst Roger Simon noted that the Ground Zero Mosque debate had become a “disaster” for Obama, “who clearly does not understand how the Presidency works.”  “Fundamental principles are like cards,” Simon suggested in a recent Politico column.  “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.  And if Obama has any hope of running again in 2012, he’ll run straight to the Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons for the dedication ceremony.”

{ 88 comments }

1

Modulo Myself 08.18.10 at 3:38 pm

‘With a Song in our Heart’ was fairly clever of Douthat, title-wise, concerning his column.

And when all of the community centers outside of the south and Alaska have been properly sensitized, it will be a nice memory to look back upon, especially in the midst of numerous race-card incidents by the racists on the left.

2

Tim 08.18.10 at 3:50 pm

So the only freedom of expression that’s allowed is the mockery (I use the term loosely) of other religions’ tenets? And not the expression of peaceful co-existence or meaningful (ie, not violent) participation in the political process typical of Western mosques?

Yes, that totally makes sense. I’ll be so angry if Obama doesn’t personally build the Museum of Danish Mohammad Cartoons.

3

More Dogs, Less Crime 08.18.10 at 4:11 pm

Have any studies been done on the effect immigration restrictions have on those who got in before the drawbridge closed? I’m guessing there have been but I’m just unaware of them. Because I didn’t go to Harvard.

4

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 4:20 pm

I don’t know, More Dogs, but I’m pretty sure the effects of those restrictions were good, because I read it in the New York Times.

5

shristea 08.18.10 at 4:30 pm

Is it just me or does this come off as ridiculous? As if the Danish cartoons represent the behaviour and opinion of all Muslims and so by requesting a dedication from the “Ground Zero mosque”, the qualms and fears of those that can not help but associate Islam with terrorism or eccentricism or anti-Western ideologies, will some how diminish. Furthermore the very notion that a dedication is being asked by the Conservatives to what sounds like them selves and their beliefs (freedom of religion or whatever it may be)… ridiculous.

6

Anders Widebrant 08.18.10 at 4:35 pm

That’s funny, I just went looking for fafblog earlier today and was sad to find it sleeping still — this hit the spot, though. Thanks!

7

Frank 08.18.10 at 5:50 pm

The right really is out of their minds… they clearly have no f’ing idea of the context of the cartoons: the ones that circulated in the middle east which mocked Islam were not the ones that were published in the West. The right would also be surprised to find that depictions are of the prophet are common in Middle Eastern countries.

8

Steve LaBonne 08.18.10 at 6:03 pm

I’m deeply moved. And in the same spirit of compromise, I am proposing that a new Museum of Conservative Stupidity and Bigotry be housed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

(I do wish Michael’s joke wasn’t so much closer to reality than my feeble one…)

9

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 6:05 pm

I have to agree, Shristea, it does sound a bit ridiculous. And yes, in fairness, let’s take a moment to chastise the race-baiters of the left, like that sadiddy Shirley Sherrod. The nerve, claiming that her relative was “lynched.” That woman needs a history lesson.

10

mcd 08.18.10 at 6:05 pm

Perhaps the Museum of Danish Muhammad Cartoons cold be combined with an Illegal Wetback Immigrant Detention Center and a Prop 8 Memorial, so the full trifecta of Republican issues for the 2010 election can be on display. That should help demonstrate Islamic moderation and the spirit of compromise.

11

nnyhav 08.18.10 at 6:06 pm

Meanwhile, Archbishop Timothy Dolan prays that “what has turned into somewhat of a divisive issue might develop into an occasion of very civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion.” Drawing a parallel to the Auschwitz Carmelite controversy, “Keep the idea, move the address,” Dolan said. “It worked there, might work here.” For values of ‘here’ that don’t include old convents on Staten Island

No word on whether Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is available to mediate on the issue of dislocating parochial schools away from churches to address the sensitivities of those subjected to the minor abuses of some of the priesthood.

12

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 7:12 pm

By the bye, in a followup to his New Yorker piece, Hendrik Hertzberg disposes of the Carmelite “parallel” here. My fave sentence: “To demand that an Islamic cultural center run by Muslims opposed to terrorism not be built two blocks from the WTC site is like demanding that a Unitarian church not be built two blocks from an abortion clinic bombed by the ‘Christian’ murderer of the late Dr. Tiller.” (Bonus points to the first person who observes that Hertzberg, being a Dhimmicrat appeaser, fails to appreciate the global threat posed by Unitarian Jihad).

13

Castorp 08.18.10 at 7:20 pm

You somehow left off the bit about Andy McCarthy:

National Review’s expert on Islam and former Assistant United States Attorney Andy McCarthy hailed the move: “Instead of instituting Sharia Law in lower Manhattan as the presence of the Cordoba House surely would have, the proposed Museum of Danish Mohammed Cartoons will instead reinforce American values. President Obama would understand this if he had not been born a Muslim as his long-form birth certificate likely states–something we could confirm if he would just release it.”

14

Substance McGravitas 08.18.10 at 7:21 pm

15

Ellis Goldberg 08.18.10 at 7:44 pm

Dogs and Berube: The studies you ask for are a piece of cake. Rational immigrants would, of course, have been aware that the drawbridge was going to be raised.

16

Anderson 08.18.10 at 8:01 pm

Rational immigrants would’ve found a smarter country to immigrate to.

17

y81 08.18.10 at 8:15 pm

Hertzberg isn’t very convincing. Try this hypothetical: imagine a Southern Baptist church being built at Auschwitz. The Nazis came from many backgrounds, but none of them were Baptists; Baptists (indeed, Protestants generally) are at least as fractured as Muslims; Southern Baptists could fairly be said to have done their best to oppose Hitler (I don’t know how many Southern Baptists served in World War II, but it must have been millions); etc. Nonetheless, I am certain that there would be considerable opposition, in which Hertzberg would join, to such a church. So Hertzberg’s attempt to attribute special characteristics to the Catholic church, which somehow distinguish it from Islam, is disingenuous.

18

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 8:38 pm

And Hertzberg would oppose a Baptist church at Auschwitz … why? Because liberal latte-sipping Dhimmicrats just don’t like the South?

19

Bill Benzon 08.18.10 at 8:59 pm

… ex-governor Palin added, “Mohammed Cartoon Museum wd be a reduff to the terrorists—religious freedom is great, but people need to respect each other’s sensitivities too. Why can’t the Islams understand that?”

They’re going to sell Duff’s Beer at the MCM? That’ll show ‘em, those coffee chugging radical facists. Down with coffee! No more Islam-o-drinks.

20

Bill Benzon 08.18.10 at 9:01 pm

It’s like, only the tea-baggers can fight the coffee-conspirators.

21

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 9:16 pm

Castorp, I did indeed leave off the Andy McCarthy graf. And I probably should’ve worked in a double-twist of some kind in which Drudge links to Roger Simon’s column while missing the fact that it is, you know, tongue-in-cheek. But that would have taken me off-message.

22

y81 08.18.10 at 9:41 pm

@18: Tone is very difficult to convey (or apprehend) in short written statements. Are you suggesting that I am wrong in my factual prediction, and that Hertzberg would not object to a Baptist church at Auschwitz? Or are you suggesting that he would object, and that I am being deliberately obtuse in not understanding why he would object? Because if it’s the latter, I am not obtuse, and I was not defending the idea of a Baptist church at Auschwitz, merely pointing out the disingenuousness of Hertzberg’s focus on the unique characteristics of Catholicism.

Incidentally, Hertzberg’s focus on the precise location of the Carmelite convent is also disingenuous, since we all know that he would not object to a mosque one block from, or across the street from, or integrated into, Ground Zero. In fact, his whole piece seems like it would only work on people who are incapable of analytical thought. (A category which may well encompass most New Yorker readers.)

23

Aulus Gellius 08.18.10 at 10:05 pm

y81:
I really don’t see why you’re so sure about what Hertzberg would think on related questions. In fact, he’s pretty clear that “church near Auschwitz” isn’t enough to necessarily make something unacceptable to him: “The rhetoric of the Carmelite/Cordoba parallel seems to assume that it was automatically wrong for a Catholic institution to locate itself in the vicinity of Auschwitz. I’m almost as skeptical of that as I am of the supposed corollary—that it’s automatically wrong for an Islamic institution to locate itself in the vicinity of Ground Zero.”

I do think that there’s an important distinction Hertzberg ignores, which is the difference between the position of Catholics in Poland, and that of Muslims in the US. It seems to me that “keeping one little area of Poland Jewish” is a more defensible cause than “keeping yet another area of the US non-Muslim.”

24

y81 08.18.10 at 10:33 pm

A. Gellius: Your last point is better than any of Hertzberg’s.

25

Gene O'Grady 08.18.10 at 11:06 pm

I may be misunderstanding MORE DOGS intent, but after the Chinese exclusion act of 1882 there was a widespread combination of apartheid and terror against the Chinese who were already here. In several towns in the West (Pendleton that I can think of off the top of my head, I’ve run across others) there was a whole underground city populated by the Chinese lest they be lynched by showing their faces on the streets. And in the old railroad town of Rock Springs (where Dick Cheney got his start) there were a whole series of incidents which led to an international agreement between the US and Chinese governments, I believe stationing Chinese observers or troops on US soil. Among the terror one can cite the burning of Chinese fishing camps on the Monterrey Peninsula, probably similar things in other places.

I doubt Mr. Douthat knows about any of this, any more than he bothered to learn Latin or Greek before taking cheap shots at the Harvard Classics Department.

26

Popeye 08.18.10 at 11:08 pm

Sometimes I get the feeling that the people don’t understand what downtown Manhattan is like. It’s not a vast expanse of empty land with a giant hole in the ground in the middle. It’s an insanely crowded place with tons of foot traffic, car traffic, office workers, skyscrapers, takeout places, food trucks, department stores, etc etc… with a giant hole in the ground in the middle. Basically millions of people of all races and religions work in the immediate area.

27

BillCinSD 08.18.10 at 11:18 pm

“there was a whole underground city populated by the Chinese lest they be lynched by showing their faces on the streets. “

Now to be fair to us Americans, we also had plenty of Sundown Towns where black people could not show there faces on the street after sundown lest they be lynched. That just shows how egalitarian Americans can be.

28

Michael Bérubé 08.18.10 at 11:34 pm

Sundown Towns, too, helped black people assimilate. And lynchings, in their way, helped persuade unruly black people to adopt Anglo-Saxon morals. Yes, there were many people who opposed Sundown Towns and lynching, just as there were many people who swore by them. But both understandings of this country have real wisdom to offer, and both have been necessary to the American experiment’s success.

29

Tony Sidaway 08.19.10 at 12:22 am

Taking this latest report at face value, and assuming it’s correct, I’d have to say that this will be remembered as the moment when the conservative movement jumped the shark. That is an utterly disastrous suggestion, and one that (if this report is correct, and today’s date isn’t April 1) will cling to the Republicans who support it like a tar baby in years, nay decades, to come.

30

Tony Sidaway 08.19.10 at 12:29 am

Ah, okay, I was fooled until I went back and reread the Palin comment. I’m rather relieved I inserted so many caveats (I was painfully aware that I was giving a strong, visceral reaction without going to confirm the report). Still I’m rather embarrassed that I fell for it! Good satire, well played!

31

Dave Maier 08.19.10 at 12:30 am

Tony, every day is (or may be) April 1 here at CT. I did like that Unitarian Jihad link. I thought it was going to be a rock band or something (tell me that’s not a great name for one).

32

JP Stormcrow 08.19.10 at 2:12 am

Michael Moore is fat.

33

Henry (not the famous one) 08.19.10 at 2:16 am

I once described myself as a lapsed Unitarian, until a friend pointed out that this was mathematically impossible.

34

Lee A. Arnold 08.19.10 at 3:59 am

You would hope that the Christians had read their Jesus, who said to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) There could hardly be a safer circumstance for symbolic cheek turning. Instead we will be small-minded, and betray our ideals. That oughta work!… Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg for knowing a great city and getting it right.

35

Eli 08.19.10 at 7:07 am

That Douthat piece was a supreme example of the sort of moral contortions conservatism must do to remain consistent with itself. They have a word for this when they think liberals are doing it: Moral Relativism – arbitrarily defining morals to fit one’s craven needs. But unlike liberals, who simply don’t believe morals were handed down from God, but arise from human experience and ought to be defined as such, conservatives have to find ways of making their absolutes fit their prejudiced and bigoted traditions.

36

bad Jim 08.19.10 at 8:00 am

As a rather tentative Unitarian Universalist, I was mildly annoyed by the Unitarian Jihad’s bit that “There is only God, unless there is more than one God.” Given that half of us are, as we put it, humanists, I thought the usual formulation was “There is at most one god.”

37

politicalfootball 08.19.10 at 11:33 am

I haven’t read the Hertzberg piece, but I know he’s a hypocrite because there’s no way he’d ever support the construction of office buildings at Aushwitz, yet at Ground Zero, he doesn’t seem to mind.

38

Earnest O'Nest 08.19.10 at 12:02 pm

The whole idea of setting a trap for Obama is that he gets trapped in it. The only way to avoid it is to avoid running into the trap. One could for instance say: religious freedom applies to all the religions; and then go on to say, for instance, that it is not the Presidential prerogative to go and decide on which buildings get built where (and that it’s not alltogether unfortunate that one lives in a state that is more libertarian than your average Presidential Regime).

39

George Berger 08.19.10 at 1:42 pm

Would Ms Geller approve the placing of a Swatstika at Yad Vashem? Or a convent at Auschwitz? Or a church at Gamla Uppsala?

40

Castorp 08.19.10 at 1:42 pm

Eli:

Your comment reminded me of a recent interview with Brink Lindsey where he says this [ http://fivebooks.com/interviews/brink-lindsey-on-traditional-and-liberal-conservatism ] about Ayn Rand and conservatives:

“So Rand, in spite of herself, has been a huge influence on the right and this goes to the story of the libertarian streak in modern conservatism. But there’s also a streak in Ayn Rand that is very right-wing and explains in part why, despite her atheism and despite the obviously anti-conservative elements of her thought, nonetheless there are deeper elements that are very appealing to the conservative mind. Those are, firstly, her absolutism and secondly, her attempt to ground the case for liberty in nature. It makes sense for any party of order and stability to be very focused on order, to be drawn to the idea that there is black and white and right and wrong and absolutes and also to be attracted to the idea that there is a natural order of things. That no matter what anyone is saying, no matter what ivory-tower intellectual’s schemes for reform and social improvement are, there is an unchanging human nature, there is a transcendent moral order and for anyone who tries to defy these things, it’s like trying to defy gravity.

Rand is an ally in that way of thinking because she is as absolutist a moralist as you can come across. Her intellectual project is to ground the case for liberty in natural rights – freedom and individual liberty are necessary to the fulfilment of human nature. I think ultimately that’s a philosophical project that’s doomed; it doesn’t work. But it absolutely is one that is congenial to the way that people with a right-wing sensibility think and I think it helps to explain why in temperament and sensibility if not in the details of her argument Rand has had such an influence.”

41

Hogan 08.19.10 at 1:44 pm

I once described myself as a lapsed Unitarian, until a friend pointed out that this was mathematically impossible.

It’s like falling out of bed when you’re sleeping on the floor.

42

JM 08.19.10 at 2:24 pm

As much as I have enjoyed watching the followers of a dead communist argue with the followers of a dead child molester, Danish cartoons just aren’t very funny.

43

Michael Bérubé 08.19.10 at 3:12 pm

then go on to say, for instance, that it is not the Presidential prerogative to go and decide on which buildings get built where

Yes, if only Obama had said that Park51 was a local matter! The man is clearly in over his head.

Would Ms Geller approve the placing of a Swatstika at Yad Vashem? Or a convent at Auschwitz? Or a church at Gamla Uppsala?

I think you have to ask y81. For my part, I’m pretty sure that Hendrik Hertzberg will decide to have a turkey club sandwich for lunch today.

44

rick 08.19.10 at 3:13 pm

Castorp, it’s awfully generous calling Rand’s work an intellectual project. Emotional drivel, a lot of it

45

Castorp 08.19.10 at 3:20 pm

Rick:

Oh, I agree. This is the treatment I think her work deserves: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/8/12hague.html

I just thought Lindsey’s point about her absolutism was interesting–and posted it because the comment above alluded to the same thing in another context–since I had generally focused on her didactic prose “style” and glorifying of the rich and scorning the poor as a source of conservative affinity.

46

More Dogs, Less Crime 08.19.10 at 3:23 pm

“Rational immigrants would, of course, have been aware that the drawbridge was going to be raised.”
Good point. By backwards induction we can deduce that the result is that the immigrants make sure to arrive on time, and so a longer wave is condensed into a shorter span of time.

47

Uncle Kvetch 08.19.10 at 3:26 pm

For my part, I’m pretty sure that Hendrik Hertzberg will decide to have a turkey club sandwich for lunch today.

I knew you were going to say that.

48

Harold 08.19.10 at 3:34 pm

The hallowed earth of Ground Zero is the site of a soon-to-be built shopping mall where Americans will be able to exercise their religion and worship their god, Mammon, as enjoined to do by President Bush when immediately after 9-11 he told them to go forth and shop.

49

bianca steele 08.19.10 at 4:55 pm

So Rand, in spite of herself, has been a huge influence on the right and this goes to the story of the libertarian streak in modern conservatism.

This makes me think less well of Brink Lindsey, whom I had seen up to now as offering reasonable accounts of a point of view with which I disagree. I doubt she was original enough to have been an influence on American rightwingers (she tapped into the Zeitgeist more plausibly), and it’s as bizarre to suggest we need a “story” about the rightwing streak in modern conservatism as for leftists to claim they are the real conservatives.

50

Castorp 08.19.10 at 5:15 pm

Bianca:

I agree that American conservatism since the Federalists has had a “libertarian streak.” On other other hand, his comments make some sense in the context of his earlier comments about J.S. Mill’s and Hayek’s thoughts on conservatives as opposed to liberals of the classical or Rawlsian variety.

51

bianca steele 08.19.10 at 5:28 pm

Castorp, I think you nail it wrt “rich people,” but in my comment I’m just trying to make sense of that couple of sentences, which I think can’t be done. How can Rand, a rightwinger, have “influence[d] the right” “in spite of herself”? I can see arguing that she wasn’t a conservative, but not that she wasn’t a rightwinger. I can see arguing that libertarianism is not conservative, but not that a supporter of McCarthyism can be said to have been picked up on by the right “in spite of herself.” I think Rand has a lot in common with Hayek. Based on this sentence, I half expect Lindsey to imply Hayek was a lefty too.

52

bianca steele 08.19.10 at 5:30 pm

Oh, and I see Lindsey’s evidence is largely a snappy line from one of the most unreliable men ever to set pen to paper.

53

Castorp 08.19.10 at 5:34 pm

You are right it is a very sloppy use of the word “right.” There is no sense in which Rand can be considered anything other than on the right, even if she is not a Burkean or Social Conservative.

54

bianca steele 08.19.10 at 5:51 pm

This is way off topic but Lindsey also says: Rand was a militant atheist and rejected conservatism’s attempt to ground free society in religious principles. Yet she free-rode on neo-Thomist, that is, Roman Catholic, support for neo-Aristotelianism, which was popular at the time, and without which her so-called epistemology withers into confused nonsense.

55

George Berger 08.19.10 at 5:53 pm

Yes, I see ,Michael Berube. I shortened my original text, but should not have done so. I see no parallels here. Ms Geller wants to assert her notion of freedom by using the cartoons. The examples I chose are 1. offensive and imaginary (the Swatstika), 2. insensitive at best (the convent), and 3. a deliberate act to assert religious superiority and de facto authority (Gamla Uppsala). Their aims are surely not to display one idea of freedom.

56

LFC 08.19.10 at 5:57 pm

Although I disagree with Douthat on the specific issue of the mosque’s location, I’m not convinced that the basic argument of his column is as ridiculous as almost everyone here seems to think. Yes, Douthat glosses over the history of “apartheid and terror” (to quote the comment @25) against Chinese, blacks, and other minorities in the U.S. And he writes that nativists were concerned about 19th-century Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies, ignoring that a lot of nativists probably just didn’t like Catholics period, regardless of the Vatican’s political pronouncements. But although Douthat’s history is somewhat crude and skewed and leans too much to the ‘consensus’ rather than ‘conflict’ side of the old historiographical debate familiar to generations of high school students, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his basic argument about the differing views of the U.S. (‘cultural’ vs. ‘constitutional’) is wrong. Now, it may indeed be wrong, but nothing said in the post or comments so far has amounted to a demolition of it, IMO.

57

Castorp 08.19.10 at 6:10 pm

LFC:

If you are interested in a ‘demolition’ of Douthat’s argument from someone who grants his ‘cultural’ vs. ‘constitutional’ views see Conor Friedersdorf: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/08/urging-assimilation-sans-bigotry.html

58

fgw 08.19.10 at 8:33 pm

re: Conservatives Offer Compromise on Ground Zero Mosque
Just a matter of time before the Democratic Senate leadership endorse the plan, at which point President Obama could invite Pam Geller and Feisal Abdul Rauf to the White House for a beer

59

chris 08.19.10 at 8:53 pm

But although Douthat’s history is somewhat crude and skewed and leans too much to the ‘consensus’ rather than ‘conflict’ side of the old historiographical debate familiar to generations of high school students, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his basic argument about the differing views of the U.S. (‘cultural’ vs. ‘constitutional’) is wrong.

No, but it is nonetheless wrong. Identical or very similar arguments have been advanced against every other wave of immigrants — not just Chinese but also Irish, Italians, Poles and other Eastern Europeans, and if you look far back enough, even Germans and Scandinavians. As a descendant of the Pennsylvania “Dutch” myself, I can comfortably laugh at the idea — once seriously advanced by people very like Douthat — that their descendants would never learn English or integrate into American culture. Therefore, I’m inclined to be skeptical when the same arguments that epically failed on the Germans, Scandinavians, Irish, Italians, and Eastern Europeans, among others, are deployed against Latin Americans, Indians, Iranians, or Arabs.

60

Snake Eyes 08.19.10 at 11:29 pm

uh oh the old radical Berube in solidarity…with those old radicals Prez BO and Mayor Bloombergzzzzzz zzzz

61

novakant 08.19.10 at 11:43 pm

Personally I’m for more strip clubs at ground zero.

62

Harold 08.19.10 at 11:50 pm

“lot of nativists probably just didn’t like Catholics period, regardless of the Vatican’s political pronouncements. ” That’s an understatement! They remembered the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew — the subject of the one of the very first American silent movies, and the “Black Legend” very well indeed. Plus, they despised the Irish and Mediterraneans as members of what they considered inferior races.

And the Catholics didn’t like them, either. The Italian government put up signs in railroad stations warning prospective emigrants not to go to the American South if they wanted to avoid debt peonage.

63

Warren Terra 08.20.10 at 1:14 am

y81, I agree with you that Herzberg was mostly unconvincing on the convent at Auschwitz, but the convent at Auschwitz was a pretty poor parallel.

First of all, Herzberg was most convincing when he stressed that the proposed convent was to be within the historical Auschwitz site – which isn’t really true for a now-closed Burlington Coat Factory two blocks away, especially as the Concentration Camp was rather more isolated than is ground Zero.

But there are just so many non-parallels; in no particular order:
The whole of Auschwitz is dedicated to memorializing what happened there, while – even were Park51 within Ground Zero, which it isn’t – Ground Zero is not similarly dedicated, and will contain a memorial but will be mostly offices and other commercial properties.
The specific organization under discussion in the one case (the Catholic Church) had a fifteen-hundred-year history of persecuting and slaughtering the principal victims of Auschwitz, a legacy that led directly to the crimes perpetrated there. The specific organization under discussion at Park51 is dedicated to better ties between Muslims and non-Muslims. Even if we paint with a broad brush and consider the proposed community center at Park51 to represent “all Muslims” it would not be accurate to say that “all Muslims” share a legacy of violent atrocity against the West, or against the World Trade Center.
The principal victims at Auschwitz were murdered specifically because their ancestors had rejected assimilation, Christianity, and Catholicism – all while the Church, at best, stood by. A Catholic shrine that in essence (and in some statements explicitly) appropriated their suffering in the service of the greater glorification and sanctification of Christianity and Catholicism would be gravely insulting, similarly to but more concretely and therefore more strongly than was seen when Mormon missionaries announced that they had posthumously converted, and thus saved from damnation, the souls of those slain at Auschwitz. The victims of 9/11 were murdered to reject either American power or coexistence; I’m not aware that the Park51 group has a position on American power, and they’re avowedly in favor of coexistence.

64

PHB 08.20.10 at 2:05 pm

The Daily Mail used to be called the Daily Hate after the proprietors description of his editorial policy as giving people something to hate. The term predates Orwell’s reference to it in 1984.

The modern GOP seems to have adopted the idea of making their entire manifesto from hate planks. Today it is Latinos and Muslims being targeted, last month it was black people, next month it will probably be gays again. It is a matter of when rather than if they start targeting Jews.

What is astonishing but unsurprising about Palin’s statements is how carelessly ignorant she is. A couple of days ago she suggested building the mosque a few blocks from ground zero. Really? How about a couple of blocks away in a disused Burlington Coat factory on the same block as a couple of strip clubs?

But this is not quite the GOP, it is the has beens trying to use this as a hate plank to make a comeback. Thats why it is Gingrich and Palin leading the charge on this one with Giuliani and some others making bit part appearances.

And the odd thing is, is that the ‘mosque’ proposal is actually bringing people closer together. It has forced the liberals to circle the wagons against the GOP bigots with the muslims on the inside.

65

libertarian 08.20.10 at 2:27 pm

And the odd thing is, is that the ‘mosque’ proposal is actually bringing people closer together. It has forced the liberals to circle the wagons against the GOP bigots with the muslims on the inside.

I guess Harry Reid skipped “circle day” in kindergarten.

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politicalfootball 08.20.10 at 2:41 pm

But although Douthat’s history is somewhat crude and skewed and leans too much to the ‘consensus’ rather than ‘conflict’ side of the old historiographical debate familiar to generations of high school students, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his basic argument about the differing views of the U.S. (‘cultural’ vs. ‘constitutional’) is wrong.

I think you’re mistaking his “basic argument” – or at least the part of it that people object to. Maybe you can properly divide Americans into nativists and liberals, but to suggest that nativism is ultimately beneficial to its victims is an absurd and offensive attempt to justify bigotry.

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Earnest O'Nest 08.20.10 at 2:55 pm

What happened to the gay bar idea?

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roac 08.20.10 at 3:16 pm

What happened to the gay bar idea?

There is no reason to believe it was ever seriously intended. This was a variation of a common thread in anti-mosque commentary — the idea, cheered whenever it surfaces, that an appropriate counter to any mosque would be to set up (e.g.) a restaurant next door specializing in barbecued pork. The wits who make this suggestion, each of whom apparently thinks it is original, evidently think that this would be like a garlic store by the gate of Dracula’s castle.

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Uncle Kvetch 08.20.10 at 3:17 pm

I guess Harry Reid skipped “circle day” in kindergarten.

There is precious little that’s “liberal” (in the USian sense) about Harry Reid. And what little there is is dwarfed by crass self-interest and opportunism.

As is the case with about 80-90% of his fellow Democrats.

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y81 08.20.10 at 3:29 pm

“There is no reason to believe [the gay bar] was ever seriously intended.”

Incidentally, there is no reason to believe that the proposed mosque is really serious. The mosque on 96th and First has never been particularly well-funded–some will recall that they started to build an Islamic center or school on part of the property, ran out of money, and sold that parcel to Related Companies. Nothing I have read indicates that the sponsors of the “Ground Zero Mosque” have the requisite funding in place. Building is very expensive in New York City, and the stereotypes about billions in Arab oil money available for just about anything are fairly inaccurate.

Indeed, I recall an article (I don’t know if it was true) saying that the new church being built at 83rd and Columbus was the first new church building in Manhattan in umpteen years. Since American evangelicals are a lot richer, taken all in all, than Muslims, I’d be surprised if Muslims found it easy to finance a building in New York City.

But hey, expostulating (or expectorating) about how the other side is bigoted or insensitive or racist of murderous or whatever is much more interesting to most people than real estate finance.

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Donald Johnson 08.20.10 at 4:59 pm

“It is a matter of when rather than if they start targeting Jews.”

Doubtful. Behind closed doors with some people, there will continue to be anti-semitism, but as for what is said out in the open, being pro-Israel and pro-Jewish is one of the excuses for hating Muslims and Arabs.

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Donald Johnson 08.20.10 at 5:04 pm

“But hey, expostulating (or expectorating) about how the other side is bigoted or insensitive or racist of murderous or whatever is much more interesting to most people than real estate finance.”

That’s a non-sequitur. This came up at Digby’s blog the other day and I don’t know if the money is there or not, but as various commenters pointed out, it wouldn’t be the first time that a member of the clergy or some idealists had grand plans without the practical knowledge or financial backing to carry them out. What does this have to do with the reality of the anti-Muslim bigotry on clear display?

The Digby piece also suggested there might be some real estate skullduggery going on–even if that were true, again it has nothing to do with the anti-Muslim bigotry. Did this issue become a national story because someone alleged there might be shady practices among NYC developers?

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Donald Johnson 08.20.10 at 5:05 pm

“But hey, expostulating (or expectorating) about how the other side is bigoted or insensitive or racist of murderous or whatever is much more interesting to most people than real estate finance.”

That’s a non-sequitur.–Me

Actually, I take that back. You’re absolutely right. The racism of the opposition to the mosque is much more interesting than real estate finance. But your “hey” sounds like you are really making a different point–that we should be focusing on the finance and not on the bigotry.

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Popeye 08.20.10 at 6:52 pm

But hey, expostulating (or expectorating) about how the other side is bigoted or insensitive or racist of murderous or whatever is much more interesting to most people than real estate finance.

No shit, Mister “imagine a Southern Baptist church being built at Auschwitz.”

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Def Att 08.20.10 at 6:58 pm

Complainers like Geller need to put their money where their mouth is (are?): sign a lease for that anti-muslim storefront and open it up.

One condition: it’s a co-op and every conservative e-thug blogger has to work the counter two days a year.

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Eric Martin 08.20.10 at 7:08 pm

There is no reason to believe [the gay bar] was ever seriously intended.

Maybe because there were already three gay bars right in the neighborhood, making…yet another gay bar kind of moot, and not nearly as scandalous as intended.

http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/how_to_not_look_like_a_total_moron/

In fact, my guess is, many of the Muslims that live and work in the area have seen actual gay people and even gay bars. It being dirty NYC and all.

Incidentally, there is no reason to believe that the proposed mosque is really serious.

Incidentally, it is not a proposed “mosque.” It is a community center with a prayer space, but the dominant feature is not the prayer space. Not by a long shot. And regardless, every indication is that the planners are serious and trying to raise the money. In fact, there is no reason to believ that they aren’t serious.

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politicalfootball 08.20.10 at 7:32 pm

But hey, expostulating (or expectorating) about how the other side is bigoted or insensitive or racist of murderous or whatever is much more interesting to most people than real estate finance.

As D. Johnson points out, this is a pretty peculiar thing to say. It is, after all, the bigots who are pushing the whole big, scary mosque thing. You need to head over to one of their blogs and tell ‘em how they needn’t fret, and should instead focus on real estate finance.

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Michael Bérubé 08.20.10 at 9:26 pm

imagine a Southern Baptist church being built at Auschwitz.

I think we pretty decisively established that Hertzberg wouldn’t go for this.

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Bill Benzon 08.20.10 at 10:12 pm

Here’s an article from Slate back in two-double-ought-one, “The Mosque to Commerce.” It points out that the original architecture on the site was inspired by Islamic models:

We all know the basic reasons why Osama Bin Laden chose to attack the World Trade Center, out of all the buildings in New York. Its towers were the two tallest in the city, synonymous with its skyline. They were richly stocked with potential victims. And as the complex’s name declared, it was designed to be a center of American and global commerce. But Bin Laden may have had another, more personal motivation. The World Trade Center’s architect, Minoru Yamasaki, was a favorite designer of the Binladin family’s patrons—the Saudi royal family—and a leading practitioner of an architectural style that merged modernism with Islamic influences.

I got the link from Tyler Cowan, who got it from Brad DeLong.

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LFC 08.20.10 at 10:42 pm

Castorp @57: I’ve read the Friedersdorf post that you linked and I agree it’s a good refutation of Douthat’s column.

81

Salient 08.20.10 at 11:43 pm

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS

YOU MUST CREDIT “SALIENT, WHO COMMENTS ON CT SOMETIMES”

[THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SPINNING SIREN HERE. IF YOU SEE THESE WORDS YOU SHOULD UPGRADE TO UNICODE PREMIUM EDITION]

Conservative bloggers are raising funds to buy up land around each site of a U.S. drone attack on Pakistani soil, so they can install little crosses in memoriam, with the name of the missile the drone dropped etched on the cross.

THAT WAS BREAKING NEWS

YOU MUST CREDIT “SALIENT, WHO COMMENTS ON CT SOMETIMES”

[THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SPINNING SIREN HERE. IF YOU SEE THESE WORDS YOU SHOULD UPGRADE TO UNICODE PREMIUM EDITION]

82

libertarian 08.21.10 at 1:13 am

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JP Stormcrow 08.21.10 at 3:57 am

Hertzberg now has his Religious Building Placement Analogies 2.o post up–Shinto Shrine at Pearl Harbor. He warms up with Newt’s Nazi Sign at the Holocaust Museum travesty (which was incredibly weak sauce even for Newt).

And you know who wouldn’t have wanted a Southern Baptist Church at Auschwitz?

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Michael Drake 08.21.10 at 1:21 pm

I’m pretty sure Auschwitz doesn’t have a Pronto Pizza right across the street. Also, I’m guessing that Southern Baptist churches probably don’t quite have the presence in Monowitz that mosques already do in downtown Manhattan.

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roac 08.21.10 at 9:07 pm

I am breaking a rule by telling this story, but it was thirty years ago: As a young lawyer I was asked what I thought about a Japanese company that was selling some kind of timeshares at Waikiki. The way the deal was set up, they should arguably have had to register it as an offering of securities; to get around that, they said OK, we will just not sell to any US citizens, so the SEC has no jurisdiction. The question for me was whether they can do this without violating the Fair Housing Act.

So anyway, the file I was given included a glossy 24-page brochure — all in Japanese only, of course, but I paged through it anyway, and when I got the the staples, the double page center spread was — the Arizona Memorial.

I was not offended, of course; but I was certainly curious, and remain so today, about what the text on that page said. I thought about it again when touring the Rheinland recently, on being informed wherever we went that the medieval street scene we were looking at was a reconstruction built in in 1954,

(My personal answer to the question, BTW, was yes, because you can’s discriminate on the basis of national origin and “US” is a national origin. But we didn’t do anything about it.)

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Xavier 08.22.10 at 2:02 pm

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mulp 08.22.10 at 8:37 pm

I find it interesting the symbolic response to an Islamic center is not a Christian center, but instead a gay bar.

Hey, I guess promiscuous gays are just the best in America values has to offer the world.

Wouldn’t the Iraq war have been more successful if the US military had recruited gays and sent the gays into Iraq because they represent American values best?

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Twisted_Colour 08.23.10 at 5:25 am

I find it interesting the symbolic response to an Islamic center is not a Christian center, but instead a gay bar.

That’s because it’s not a symbolic response, it’s an attempted insult.

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