The American people are incredibly wonderful, forgiving people. It amazes me. Not many people would be so forgiving. Yesterday the New York City Landmarks Preservation commissioners unanimously denied landmark status to the 152-year-old Burlington Coat Factory building that currently stands on the site where the Islamic community plans to build a mosque, the Cordoba Initiative. The Burlington Coat Factory was a retail store until September 11, 2001, when landing gear from one of planes that brought down the World Trade Center crashed through the roof. Preserving the Burlington Coat Factory as a landmark building would have prevented any changes in its structure, and would have ended any controversy regarding the building of a mosque. According to Debra Burlingame, whose brother died in the Pentagon on 9/11, "This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists.” I sometimes struggle with the concept of forgiveness, but I do understand it. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than for the forgiven. It helps us to move on, to release any ill feelings about whatever perceived slight has been done to us. It frees us. I admire people who can forgive so easily. It's a gift, a blessing. But so is sensitivity to other people.
Ground Zero is a cemetery; it is hallowed ground. There are still the remains of people there who died on 9/11, and there is as yet no memorial built for them. Regardless of how one views the building of a mosque at that particular location, to those folks who lost family members and friends there it can only serve as a painful reminder of the religious extremism that killed their loved ones. It's not about "cultural racism" or bigotry, but rather it is about the fact that if it is going to cause pain to anyone at all, it should not go ahead. And it has already generated enough controversy that it is causing pain and anguish for too many people.
My philosophy is "When in doubt ... don't." So, I am personally opposed to building a mosque at Ground Zero, simply because I think it is incredibly insensitive in the circumstances -- but that is just my opinion, and I am usually wrong. However, I do admire and respect the forgiveness of the American people. Perhaps that's the lesson to be learned here.
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it."