Food For Thought: The Mosque and the Confederate Flag

Let me be honest here: I am not at all concerned about a mosque being built at or near to Ground Zero.

This is for three reasons:

1. I am an intelligent adult who believes wholeheartedly in the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free expression, and freedom of religion.

2. While I don’t always succeed at this, I try not to tar people with the same brush: in other words, just because person of group A did this to me, does not mean all people of group A would behave in the same manner.

3. I actually know Muslims in real life. SHOCKING!

I mean – how far away does the mosque have to be to pacify the opponents? Because honestly, it seems so ridiculous. First people were upset that it was at Ground Zero, then when they found out it was two blocks from Ground Zero they started protesting that now, it was just too close (okay, but before you were upset that it was AT Ground Zero, so shouldn’t you be happy?). For me, honestly, all this shows is the base fears of the people protesting the mosque: they don’t care where it is, as long as it’s not built anywhere in New York City, I betcha.

Recently, I came across this post on UDoTheDishes, and wow, did it piss me off:

So where does that leave us? Unlike many of you, I live outside the DMV but spent most of my youth there. You DC people care mightily about politics, the media, Chelsea’s wedding, wine tasting, Georgetown cupcakes, traffic, getting a corner office overlooking the Potomac or how to make a living as a civilian in a defense industry/political world. I don’t. I don’t care about any of it because I’m still dealing with the Confederate flag. I live in South Carolina, a state that still flies the Confederate flag on the State House lawn and where full-sized replicas fly in the beds of trucks. Hell, I even saw a girl draped in a real one heading home from the beach one day; not a flag towel or flag blanket, a real Confederate flag held together with clothespins.

Are all the people who support flying the flag racist? No, they’re not. Is everyone who says that the Confederate flag represents a heritage that supported limited government, states’ rights and true capitalism simply denying the fact that the south housed slaves? No, they aren’t. Believe it or not, not every white person in the South from 1609 – 1863 owned a slave! Was everyone fighting for the South fighting to uphold slavery? No they weren’t. But, were there a ton of racists in the South during the Civil War; was the South comprised of many prejudice white people who owned slaves; did many in the Confederate army fight for the belief that white people were in all ways better than black people? Yes, yes, and yes! And does the Confederate flag symbolize, to our society and to our world, one of the darkest times in our country’s history where we treated people who didn’t look like us with hatred and ill-will? Absolutely. There’s no debating it.
Food for Thought: The same argument that keeps the flag flying in South Carolina is going to allow a mosque to be built near Ground Zero. There may not be a comparison between slavery-9/11 or how 9/11 killed 2,000 and the Confederates killed untold numbers of slaves, or that there is no real debate between religious freedom vs “racist freedom”, but please keep it all in perspective.

The writer seems confused here (or maybe it’s just me). Not all Muslims hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings on September 11th. In fact, given that there are close to a billion Muslims on the planet, the majority (by an extremely vast amount) did not. However, all (or most) of the people who choose to drape Confederate symbols from their trucks or iron Confederate symbols onto their clothes, make a conscious choice in what they display, and what that says about them. (And if they don’t, they should be more aware: ever seen someone with a tattoo of Asian characters that they got because they “thought it looked cool?”, and it really said “Hi, I’m a jackass and a whore”? It’s that kind of situation).

I recognize that what one thing means to me, it does not necessarily mean to others. So I’m willing to listen to the writer’s argument that the flag represents a “heritage”, I agree that the flag symbolizes “one of the darkest times in our country’s history where we treated people who didn’t look like us with hatred and ill-will”.

Now let me tell you how I view the Confederate flag (in all of their many forms): I view it as an endorsement of a failed attempt to destroy this country. It is the flag of traitors, and rebels. And while I’m sure a great many simply followed it out of, I’m sure, a well meaning sense of patriotism, that doesn’t make it right. Not all Southerners were Confederates: they were large pockets of Unionists in the South (hello, West Virginia! Tennessee! Jones County!), and obviously, the Confederates themselves would reject the notion that black men and women were within their self-identified group.

And it wasn’t just any attempt to destroy this country. The Civil War almost crushed this nation. Not the Nazis, not the Japanese, not the British nor the Soviets came as close to defeating America as the Confederacy did. This is not a situation that only one side or the other deserves all the blame for, but whatever the Confederacy could have become, the United States of America, as we know it today, would have failed if the CSA didn’t die in the mud of Appomattax. Whatever that country could have been doesn’t matter, it will never be.

And those today who wear the flags and symbols of the Confederacy make a conscious choice, knowing full well what the Confederacy stood for, to wear those emblems. They cloak their intentions in heritage, but the heritage and the legacy they stand for was the downfall of the country we all live in today.

And then there’s this:

The flag flying isn’t physically hurting anyone, neither is a mosque being built near Ground Zero. Each has a right to be in established, each is granted that freedom under our laws, and each alludes to a heritage/history that is not 100% violent or 100% racist or 100% sexist or 100% wrong.

America grants freedoms, it’s what is so wonderful about our country. But isn’t it ok to draw the line somewhere? Isn’t it ok to know your kids may test the limits of drinking in high school but not be providers of the alcohol?

One would think that if a line were going to be drawn somewhere, it would be drawn to prevent the display of the symbol of traitors and rebellion. But it isn’t: and why? Because of the First Amendment. And because Americans do not have the right not to be offended.

So if the First Amendment allows for the protection of the symbol of what damn well came close to actually destroying the United States, it should certainly allow for a group of religious folks, affiliated only in the most broad of categories with the zealots on those airplanes on September 11th, to build a center in New York City where they can exercise their Constitutionally given rights to worship their religion.

Here’s some Food for Thought: Just as it would be unfair to identify me, a Catholic (albeit, a long-term non practicing one), as being a terrorist based on the alleged conduct of Father James Chesney, suspected in a 1972 bombing in Belfast, so it is unfair to identify a person of the Muslim faith as being complicit, or approving, of the 9/11 hijackings. And yet, that’s exactly what the opposition of the mosque does: hey, you know what? Those hijackers? They were human beings, too, certainly that makes me just as complicit as they in the attacks. And if the opponents of the mosque are successful in urging lawmakers to pass rules preventing the mosque’s construction, they will have successfully pissed on the First Amendment, and utilized identity politics over, you know, that whole “Freedom” thing they so often claim to cherish, yet conveniently forget to practice.

And if some jackass decides to wrap himself in a Confederate flag at Glenn Beck’s little soiree on Saturday and run up and down the Lincoln Memorial steps? Hey, it’ll make me proud to see him allowed to exercise that freedom. But I’ll make sure to point him to the National Archives Metro stop (conveniently located on the Green and Yellow lines) when he’s seeking to depart the National Mall.

4 thoughts on “Food For Thought: The Mosque and the Confederate Flag

  1. I once had the pleasure of visiting Stone Mountain, GA, where the faces of the Confederacy are carved into the side the mountain. It was more than a little disturbing. In fact, it’s a testament to the tolerance of most Americans that such a piece of history is allowed to exist in such brazen form. Lest you forget, indeed.

    I started making the Catholic analogy in my head just as I got to that spot on your page. Good post.

  2. my parents – HUGE liberals, pro everything – are against the mosque. they think it’s too “face-rubbing,” too soon. they equated it to the japanese asking to build a japanese cultural center at pearl harbor right after the bombings.

    i pointed out that the japanese could not do that after pearl harbor because we had stuck them all in fucking internment camps, and offered the opinion that if we’re allowed to keep blithely equating Muslims with Terrorists, it won’t be long until we start putting THEM in camps, either.

  3. As has been pointed out to me, symbols are very powerful. A member of my family came to a family gathering once wearing a T-shirt with a confederate flag on it. When my wife asked him why he chose to do that, he played the whole “heritage” card, indicating that he viewed it as nothing more than a symbol of the south and it didn’t mean anything. My wife suggested, then, that it would be OK for him to wear a T-shirt with a shwastika on it. After all, it was nothing more than a symbol and didn’t mean anything, right?

    He may still wear that shirt, I don’t know, because he certainly doesn’t wear it to our family gatherings any more.

  4. The confederate flag was created in 1861 to represent the confederate states in the Civil War. If the flag represents “heritage” and the flag was created for the war then that means the “heritage” they are celebrating is one of destroying the country and condoning slavery.

    People are being very hateful towards Muslims. There is not logic in any of it. Timothy McVeigh talked about his Christian beliefs and he committed a terrorist act yet I don’t think anyone is complaining about a Christian church being in the vicinity. Also, the mosque was already there. It existed prior to 9/11. They simply want to expand! Way to protest now people.

    Oh and you are right. It’s not far away enough and never will be. People are protesting mosques being built across the country. It’s just hateful.

    Great post!

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