Retiring ER

After finally realizing how rarely I am able to actually post the many and varied political thoughts running through my head at any given moment, and how it’s simply unfathomable to make any sense of our current world politics, I’ve decided to retire The Ethical Realist. I’ll keep the site up for historical reference, but I’ll no longer be posting here in the foreseeable future. I’ve moved my focus to something I feel strongly makes more of a difference… the micro level of Somatic Movement Therapy and Education. As a melding parting, I’m leaving this link to Global Water Dances. And you can find me by clicking on TheSomaFox. Thanks to all who supported me in this political adventure to keep the dream alive for a better, multiparty system. Keep voting for the alternative! Peace and love, HD


From the New York Times today…

By Ellen Barry and Michael Schwirtz

KIEV, Ukraine — Yulia V. Tymoshenko, once one of Ukraine’s most powerful and popular politicians, was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in prison, the culmination of a politically charged trial that could presage the end of the country’s short and often raucous experiment with democracy.

Click here to read the full story from the Times.


It Is Precisely Her: Yulia Tymoshenko

In Kyiv, people are awaiting the end of the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, some for less obvious reasons. In the center of town, the two sides gather right next to each other on the main street, Kreshchatic. At precisely 9 a.m. every morning the loudspeaker comes on, blaring an uplifting patriotic song, which says that for everything to change for the better, it depends on us. Then comes the recorded repetitious chanting of “Yulia to Jail!”

The other side counters with “Yulia Is Our President!” and their own pop music tailored for the protests. Back and forth they go with song, rhetoric and flag-waving all day long. During late July these gatherings remained quite peaceful, but for the people who live and work nearby, the sound assault was maddening. One resident called it “audio terror.”

At first it felt like North Korea, with the propaganda screaming, making it impossible to concentrate, sinking into the psyche. An extreme comparison, of course, and once on the street it quickly became apparent that this was more like democracy in action, people practicing their right to protest. Getting closer, the demonstrators were fewer in number than the volume indicated. There was speculation that the regulars from both camps were being paid to stand there every day.

The anti-Yulia side, with the better sound system but less enthusiastic support, was cordoned off by a black scrim. Behind it stood neatly lined up rows of young people waving flags in unison, mostly boys who seemed completely bored.

The open, more populated pro-Yulia side appeared to be truly infatuated with their hero and included men and women of varying ages from different parts of the country. They were eager to pose for the camera.

Click Here to Watch the Slideshow:
Yulia Tymoshenko Trial Demonstrations

Most people walked by and through the crowd totally uninterested. The general feeling leaned more toward apathy and disillusionment with the political process.

Little wonder. The heroic efforts of the Orange Revolution in 2004 saw the Ukrainian people challenging the election and coming out victorious. They rose up and got into office their preferred candidate Victor Yushchenko, who was maimed by poison. His Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, with the signature blonde braid, became the face and largely the voice for the uprising.

Amidst infighting and little improvement in ordinary living conditions during their term, many of the dissatisfied voting public sat out the 2010 election. Tymoshenko ran against Victor Yanukovich, the very man who was ousted by the revolutionary repeat election vote. He won the presidency, and she is facing corruption charges in this current trial.

On August 5th, Tymoshenko was jailed on contempt-of-court charges for allegedly refusing to stand while addressing the judge and repeatedly calling him a puppet of the president. Apparently thousands of people flocked the streets and military blockades were installed, just on time for the 20th year celebration of Ukrainian Independence. Now the trial has been postponed, as the West voices concern that it is politically motivated.

For the latest on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, click here.

–Dana Davison

(This story was updated September 15, 2011.)


Nuclear and the Democrats

Today I received a very disturbing letter from a group called Public Citizen, whose mission includes keeping an eye on campaign finance reform, which was dealt a huge blow by the Supreme Court last year. It is a call for action, and I wanted to pass it on. If nuclear energy is progressive, then I am not a progressive. -DD

From Public Citizen (March 23, 2011): “Just days before the Japanese earthquake, nuclear power company Duke Energy extended a $10 million loan to Obama’s re-election convention committee. Tell President Obama to reject the $10 million loan from Duke Energy. Public Citizen is firmly opposed to politicians accepting huge sums of money from corporations. President Obama accepting a line of credit from Duke Energy — a company that operates three nuclear plants and is negotiating with federal officials on subsidies to build a fourth — while formulating his response to the crisis in Japan and reviewing our own energy policy presents the potential for a disheartening and disastrous conflict of interests. Furthermore, accepting this loan would seriously undermine the administration’s efforts to clean up electoral politics, which have included the Democratic National Convention banning direct corporate contributions for the first time ever. Send President Obama an email urging him to reject corporate loans to his re-election committee.”

Links to related articles:

From the National Center for Public Policy Research (March 17, 2011):Duke Energy to Bail Out the Democratic National Convention by Committing $10 Million Loan Guarantee

From All Gov (March 18, 2011):Duke Energy Gives Democratic National Convention $10 Million Line of Credit

From the National Legal and Policy Center (March 16, 2011):Duke Energy CEO Rogers Plays Politics With Shareholder Money; $10M Credit Line for Democrats


A Letter from Thich Nhat Hanh

This message was posted on Thich Nhat Hanh’s Facebook page and shared with me by a favorite yoga teacher. I found it very moving and worth sharing here.

Dear friends in Japan,
As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died.
The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.
An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.
Here in France and at our practice centers all over the world, our brothers and sisters will continue to chant for you, sending you the energy of peace, healing and protection. Our prayers are with you.


The Madman and The Black Monk

by Dana Davison

Lately, I’ve got madness on the mind. I suspect this is a result of the brutal winter and diving back into the Russian literature. They go so well together. I’ve been finding that a lot of people are thinking about some of the eternal questions that arise from feeling mad. A good fairy angel gave me a wonderful seat last week for Gogol’s Diary of a Madman at the BAM Harvey Theater. It’s my favorite Brooklyn theater, all crumbling in its splendor. The stage had been transformed into an attic room, with red brick walls and a slanting tin roof. Rain was falling onto the skylight and dripping into buckets on the stained floors. In the back, a little bed with a trunk at the foot of it, and in the middle a desk lit by candle. Poprishchin’s room. The adaptation made him a bit more British than Russian, but the Australian Geoffery Rush gave a magnificent performance. I watched him slowly losing his mind.

Afterward, I went up to the psychiatry ward at Lenox Hill Hospital to visit a friend there, who seemed to me no different than her usual loony self. But still it seems everyone is feeling a bit crazy these days. Maybe because of the current scary state of the world, but maybe it’s something smaller, something old; age-old questions, in any case. While this may not fall directly under Ethical Realism, I’m posting here my response to reading the Chekhov story called The Black Monk, with a link below to the story itself… a pleasant diversion, and a gentle contrast to Madman.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Though not a typical Chekhov story, The Black Monk (1894) embraces the major themes of the times in which it was written: nature, the supernatural and psychology.

Nature comes into play with the beautiful descriptions of the garden, the explanation of using smoke to combat the frost and the articles written by Igor Semenich. It is the decorative part of the story, exhibiting desire and aesthetics. Nature becomes human, providing different views to the world. The Black Monk himself is a mystical mythic creature. Born of a legend, perhaps of Kovrin’s own imagination, a thousand-year-old ghost. Some critics put the story in the genre of the fantastic, but it seems more easily categorized as magical realism today, as the story contains elements of both the usual and unusual. However, even that might be a stretch and perhaps moot, as Chekhov himself did not subscribe to one genre but sought to conquer general problems in his stories. Because he was a doctor and medicine was such a big part of his life (“Medicine is my wife, and literature my mistress.”), it seems more likely that the psychological aspects drive the story as a study of mental illness.

All three of the main characters live with their own double personalities. Igor Semenich says he wants Kovrin as his son-in-law, but then worries when it comes to pass. His ego shows in his attitude toward his garden and his daughter. Tanya worries about Kovrin, and alternates between pride and jealousy. For her, marriage is an illusion and not a happy one. The way she and her father relate to each other also illustrates dysfunction. The states of mind of Igor Semenich and Kovrin run parallel and in the end they share the same destiny. Everyone seems to be looking out for themselves and blind to the needs of others. But truth has different perspectives, and not everyone sees things in the same way.

It is the figure of Kovrin who best exemplifies the central theme of the story. Through this main character, Chekhov raises questions that are eternally relevant, such as: What makes a person happy? How does one live an interesting life not muddled with mediocrity and remain sane? How to find the way and know your place in the world? What is and is not important? What does it mean to heal a person? Is it better to live with joyful illusions? What is the meaning of life and death? These questions are not answered in the story but examined without judgment, in my opinion, so the reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

Kovrin feels he does not know anything but his studies. When he arrives at Borissovka, he is still studying all night. Already his mental state is altered. He thinks about how much he has accomplished so far in life, but he wonders about the purpose. He comes to think that the practical things are for nothing. His encounters with the Black Monk make him feel important and happy, and others notice how interesting he is. When he is cured of his visions, he feels completely ordinary and depressed. The most meaningful passage regarding the psychology appears in part five, where Kovrin converses with the Black Monk on connections between immortality, enjoyment and knowledge, sanity, health and normalcy. It ends with the Black Monk slowly vanishing.

“The hallucination is over,” said Kovrin; and he laughed. “It’s a pity.” It is.

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov (translated by Constance Garnett)


Centrism and the Third-Party Reality

By Dana Davison

John Reisman is a conservative by definition, which he says frightens a lot of people because they misunderstand the meaning of the word. “How conservative is a Hummer?” he asks. “That’s not a conservative car. A conservative car is a Hyundai or a hybrid.” (He drives a Honda Civic.) He has friends in the military who say they hate the socialists and equate them with Democrats. Reisman likes to point out to those friends that the definition of socialism is owned and operated by the government, so they actually earn their paychecks under a socialist reality.

Reisman is methodically building the structure for a third political party that he believes will resonate with the largest swath of Americans. He registered the Centrist Party with the Federal Election Commission in 2006 and set up a website to provide the foundation. He wrote and posted five centrist editorials, and sent them to 13,000 press contacts, hoping to the change the language. He wanted to differentiate between moderates and centrists.

“We don’t need moderation, necessarily,” Reisman says. “Moderation is more malleable; it’s almost mealy. Centrism has to be about standing for tough subjects. It has to be strong.” He designed the Centrist Party on what he sees as the seven most crucial platform planks: economy, education, energy, environment, healthcare, political reform and security.

The notion of centrism is not new, but Reisman is the first to attempt establishing it as a viable third party. At the same time, he wants to protect his ideas from being misused, which makes him cautious. He won’t divulge any exact number of members, but he says that people across the country responded to the editorials and joined the party.

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 58 percent of Americans favor an alternative party, and put independents at 40 percent of the electorate. Last year, a Washington Post poll found two-thirds of Americans “unhappy with the government.”

Reisman is a systems expert. He studies the ways things work, and how different parts work together. He worked on developing a new education system. He conducted research and analysis in energy-efficient urban and industrial buildings, and he was awarded a patent for his time management system. He studied engineering and worked in media production and information technology systems.

Fellow entrepreneur Amir Banifatemi says Reisman started his party as a way of focusing on common sense solutions. “His passion is solving problems,” he says. “Initially, I was looking at him as a weird person. He has so many ideas and different perspectives. As I got to know him, I realized that his mind is connecting things together like very few people can.”

Currently, Reisman is examining climate, energy, economics and healthcare systems, becoming well versed in all the pillars of his proposed party. He says he wants to apply his knowledge to the political system because it is critical to the collective future of the nation to start putting people before corporations.

“I do not believe we will be able to reverse these trends without a truly reasonable third party,” he says. For Reisman, a new party is the only way to break the gridlock between special interests, campaign influence and the resulting mediocre, ineffective legislation.

“He’s not trying to get anything for himself,” Banifatemi says, “He’s not backed by anybody. He used all his own money to do this, spent hours and nights on it, and he’s doing it alone.” He adds that Reisman, with his deep understanding of complex problems, sometimes gets too focused on solutions and has difficulty keeping it simple.

Reisman’s wife Harito, a Swiss marketing and communications specialist, explains this difficulty as related to his 160 IQ, but she says his sense of humor and comedic wit help keep it all in perspective. Reisman himself is working to make his approach more accessible.

“When you look at it from a holistic view, I mean the entire system of the political reality in America – the parent systems, collateral systems and subsystems as defined by Systems Science – everything’s intertwined; everything’s tied together,” he says. “We now have a political landscape that’s largely manipulated by legislative values, gerrymandering, media bias, profiteering and greed. All of these things are in play.”

While state ballot access, media coverage, debates and the Electoral College present obstacles for a third party, Reisman thinks the biggest challenge is making people aware enough to act. The Centrist Party is not on any state ballots yet. It would need petitions in 50 states. “It’s a concept,” he says.

The website allows membership by name and Zip code, to aggregate the districts. Once enough signatures are collected for a state, then that state can be registered with the secretary of state’s office so people can sign up for it in the next election cycle. Reisman is looking for an individual in each state to organize and set up the ballot, but he is being careful to find people truly in the center.

His caution stems from personal experience, and Reisman avoids the media for the most part. He says that candidates from both major parties lifted his material. He believes the current “media storm” makes it difficult for the public to be informed accurately and in context. “There are a lot of media biases fighting it out in the public and a lot of political biases fighting it out through the media,” he says. He wants to keep the Centrist Party out of that and keep it focused on the best ways to run the country.

As for getting into the debates, Reisman says he would have to see how things develop to that point, but that televised debates may not be so important if people are already seeing centrism as the right choice. “If they saw that the foundation work is there, and there was the notion that it is in motion, then it’s as simple as signing up on the Internet,” he says. “But for a Centrist Party to work, it has to be an intelligent and pragmatic party.”

Reisman says he is not convinced the Electoral College is as flawed as some people think, adding that it requires further investigation. He stresses that it is all about finding the right candidate. “We need candidates who are strong enough to argue for reason,” he says. “People who aren’t going to smile all time just to get people to like them. We don’t need baby kissers. We need somebody willing to look at all the exigencies of our reality and how to realistically address those.”

Although he does not intend to run for office himself, Reisman believes none of the hurdles are insurmountable, as long as the organization comes from people being aware. He put the system in place, and now the public will have to decide whether or not to mount a third-party attempt and get the Centrist Party on the ballot by 2012.

Read the Centrist Party tenets and positions at:

And more John Reisman here:


Maryhouse: An East Village Gem

By Dana Davison

Among the new luxury condominiums, fancy cafes and boutique clothing stores in the East Village, an old redbrick building caters to a different crowd.

Maryhouse offers its services to homeless women. Established in 1976 on East Third Street by journalist and activist Dorothy Day, it is one of more than 180 “houses of hospitality” founded as part of the Catholic Worker movement across the country. It provides food, clothing, showers, telephone and a place of warmth, through the efforts of volunteers.

Volunteering isn’t just for the holidays here. It’s a way of life. Most of the volunteers live at the house, consciously practicing poverty to better understand those they serve. There are currently 28 residents at Maryhouse, ranging in age from two to 92, coming from privileged homes and from the streets, and including a family of refugees from the Congo. Resident volunteers share the same roof with guests in need of shelter. They work together as a community, performing a wide variety of little works of mercy.

“The only thing predictable about the day-to-day here is the unpredictability,” says resident volunteer Lindsay Hagerman, a 27-year-old Dallas native.

She says a given day could include visiting a hospital or nursing home, doing house repairs, organizing donations, hanging out with a visitor or housemate, attending a demonstration, writing letters, praying, attending Mass, accompanying someone in an ambulance, or preparing the newspaper for mailing.

The Catholic Worker newspaper started the movement of the same name in 1933 when Day’s friend Peter Maurin convinced her to co-publish a paper aimed at the social teachings of the church and advocating for the poor and nonviolence. It remains an integral part of the Catholic Worker community to this day, with 20,000 subscribers.

“We take turns writing the articles, and we print the address labels and do all the preparations for mailing it right here, with no paid staff members, and no subscription price,” says Felton Davis, 59, who came to Maryhouse in 1988 from an upper-middle class upbringing where nothing was wanting. “It’s been very instructive for me to live among the poor and try to be a useful person,” he says.

As part of their work, Catholic Worker volunteers regularly attend peace demonstrations, sometimes landing in jail for it. Davis was arrested in 2002 outside the United Nations during a campaign against preparations for the Iraq war, and again for a war protest at the Intrepid on Good Friday this year, where he and others were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the entrance to the military museum.

Hagerman also participated in the Intrepid demonstration. She says being a volunteer at Maryhouse is different in a lot of ways from other types of volunteering. “I view the Catholic Worker philosophy as revolutionary,” she says, “and our work at the house – however seemingly mundane or small, often because of how mundane and small – as profoundly religious and political.”

Dorothy Day referred to herself as a Catholic anarchist, and she called her philosophy “personalism,” describing it as taking personal responsibility for someone in need.

Some of the volunteers at Maryhouse handle the responsibility by covering specific shifts at the house, cooking and cleaning, answering the phone and door. Other residents help out even if they are not on shift. Hagerman says the way work gets defined is one of the most radical things about the Catholic Worker; it calls into question when a person is working and what work is valuable, as well as how productivity and results are measured and whether those measurements are necessarily important. “Much of our work is outside shifts,” she says.

For Davis, this work also includes helping the homeless women with social services and keeping in touch with political prisoners and death row inmates through letter-writing campaigns. “What it boils down to is that we are supposed to be doing for others what we would have others doing for us if we were the outcast and the downtrodden,” he says. “It’s that simple, though making that happen within a community context is not easy.”

Maryhouse is run more like a big family than an institution, Davis says. The building formerly housed the Third Street Music School, so the auditorium provides a space for meetings and speakers and storing the newspapers. On the main floor, there is also an office and computer room with a dot-matrix printer and the little chapel room for vespers, which is the only space in the building where people are not allowed to sleep. The kitchen, dining room and clothing room are downstairs, where most of the socializing takes place.

Throughout the house, the walls are covered with posters and photographs of Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Gandhi, and with messages of tolerance and spreading peace. “In the midst of the apparent chaos here,” Davis says, “there is order and purpose and surprisingly enough, a lot of love.”

The boarding rooms are upstairs, where there is also a library. And that’s where preparations for Christmas are made each year, which include wrapping presents and making as many gift bags as possible. The holidays often bring visiting volunteers, and Davis appreciates the energy brought by the visitors, who he says aren’t as bogged down with the daily grind of life at the house and often lighten up the atmosphere.

The day after Thanksgiving, the clothing room, which usually opens only on Tuesday, was made available for the holiday.

“It’s my Black Friday here today,” says one of the women who came for lunch. Dee finds a pretty blue and white kimono and brings it into the kitchen to try on in the pantry. She asks Kaori Teramura, a visiting volunteer from upstate, to help show her how to put it on correctly. Teramura obliges, and then makes an impromptu obi from a flower-print smock and ties that around her waist, giving Dee the full effect of a proper Japanese lady. They grin in delight and bow to one another.

Click here for Maryhouse slideshow (music by DC Valentine)

The volunteers are collecting coats for women and men in need for the winter. Donations can be dropped at Maryhouse, which is located at 55 East Third Street between First and Second Avenues. Or call (212) 777-9617 for more information.


In the Name of Peace

By Dana Davison

Different factions refer to it as the Islamic Community Center, Cordoba Center, Ground Zero Mosque, Muslim Center or the Old Burlington Coat Factory. Each of these names might reveal a particular stance on the project officially known as Park51.

However, the debate surrounding this controversial building proposal centers not on the name but on the location. And while extreme opinions on both sides of this polarizing issue tend to garner the most attention, two women—both non-Muslim and deeply affected by September 11th—offer more nuanced and unexpected opposing views. Their beliefs put them each at odds with their peers, but they find common ground with each other on what stirred the controversy and agree on a possible solution.

Abigail Carter lost her husband in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. She supports Park51. “I feel that any group, no matter their faith, has the freedom to exist in this country,” she says. Carter was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Toronto. She and her husband, Arron Dack, lived in London, Brussels and Boston before settling in Montclair, NJ. After her husband’s death, Carter started writing as a way to make sense of it all. She now lives in Seattle, and has contributed to Self magazine and published a book called The Alchemy of Loss.

“The mosque is not technically at Ground Zero, but even if it were, as long as it is legal in respect to city ordinances, it should not matter where it is built,” she says. “I do not hold all of Islam accountable for my husband’s death, just as I do not hold all Christians accountable for the Oklahoma bombing or all Germans accountable for the Holocaust. To me, a mosque at Ground Zero shows the zealots responsible for terrorist acts and the rest of the world what freedom and tolerance look like, and shows that we are not conquered by their acts but able to rise above them and grow stronger.”

Genevieve describes herself as an average New York lady. She has lived in the city for 25 years, working as a freelance writer and editor, and she watched the collapsed towers from her Chelsea apartment rooftop. She opposes Park51, much to the surprise of her fellow liberal friends. Because of angry reactions and a general worry of repercussions, she prefers to use a pseudonym. “I think it is inappropriate to build such a center, no matter how noble its intentions, on the site where such a huge, terrible crime was committed in the name of Islam,” she says, “even though the vast majority of Muslims find that day as abominable as anyone else.”

She points out that the old Burlington Coat factory was damaged on September 11th by part of one of the planes that flew into the towers. “That, to me, makes the location very fairly part of Ground Zero,” Genevieve says. “Opposing a location is not religious intolerance. Religious tolerance is abundantly established in this country, and the more I heard opposition to the site almost uniformly labeled bigotry, the more I felt that something very scary was happening. Calling someone bigoted is an effective way of putting a stop to a healthy discussion of anything. I do not see how building the center in another Manhattan location would ultimately hurt anyone who would want to use it.”

Carter and Genevieve have never met, but they each are taking an unusual position within their respective worlds, and both express an awareness of the other side. Carter worries about getting flack from other families affected by 9/11 who oppose it, but she says so far no one has dared to take on a widow. “I sense that the opposition is based in fear,” Carter says. “It is a fear I understand.” Genevieve is concerned that people realize there are valid reasons to oppose it, but she says, “There are also a variety of equally ugly reasons.”

From their two unique vantage points, the women concur that the media intensified the divisions. “The media fanned the flames of this issue and then the politicians jumped on board and used it to whatever advantage they could,” Carter says. “The media often plays Chicken Little with their alarmism.” Genevieve thinks most of the mainstream media labels any opposition to the project as intolerance. She points to the coverage of Florida pastor Terry Jones. “The pastor may have acted in a tasteless way,” she says, “but media outlets effectively poured gasoline on a spark and turned it into a bonfire.”

Discord about the project extends into the Muslim community, and the developers are trying to set the record straight.

For their part, prominent Muslims are divided on the project for various reasons. Journalist, author and commentator Fareed Zakaria supports Park51 on secular grounds, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, opposes it as insensitive. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Muslim scholar Irshad Manji posed questions like “Will the swimming pool be segregated? May women lead congregational prayers any day of the week? What will be taught about homosexuals? Agnostics? Atheists? Apostasy? Where does one sign up for advance tickets to Salman Rushdie’s lecture?”

The Park51 website does not address these specific questions, but the developers are making their case for the center as a place of tolerance, stating in the Vision section: “Our goals are pluralism, service, arts and culture, health and healing.” And in the Mission section, the center strives to: “Encourage dialogue, harmony and respect amongst all people, regardless of race, faith, gender or cultural background.”

Although Genevieve believes the location could be easily moved out of respect since the developers still need a lot more money to make the center a reality, she also supports a proposed compromise to keep the Park51 address. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel publicly suggested that Imam Faisal Rauf bring Muslims, Christians and Jews together to raise the money, and run it as a Center of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, united.

It may be idealistic, but then that is a quality these two women share in their agreement on a solution to end the tensions and promote healing for everyone involved. Says Carter, “I love it! What a message that would send to the world!”


On Park51

I’m posting this email from a reader with the idea of initiating some discussion from both sides, not of the extreme but of the in-between. –HD

Dear Hope Dascher,

In watching this whole brouhaha about the Islamic Center down near Ground Zero, what strikes me about it is the way so much of the media seems determined to portray supporters for the Center as morally superior and those opposed to it as hateful and/or bigoted. There doesn’t seem to be any room for all the many ideas in between those two extremes. Recently Imam Faisal Rauf, of the proposed Center, said something that bothered me in an interview on CBS “This Week.” He said that while he hasn’t closed the door on moving the project, he fears that moving it will cause a big uproar in the Muslim world. He said:

“My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism.”

If that is his main concern about whether or not to move the location of the Center, it would mean that we’re held hostage to building it there out of fear that people elsewhere might be offended and therefore might cause us harm. I find that very depressing. I find hearing the word “hatred” used so easily and copiously by people in favor of the location also very depressing. Because while there’s plenty of hatred to be found in the world, I think most people who oppose the location are not doing it out of hatred at all. On the news, we see truly hateful people featured on one side, people insisting that opposing it equals religious intolerance on the other, and absolutely nothing in between. I’ve read some articles recently by Muslims on the subject, which I think are worth reading, one by Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, in which she states that both sides have it wrong.

A Muslim Reformer on the Mosque

Another one is by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, in which he offers compelling reasons from a Muslim point of view for why the location is a mistake.

Muslim Scholar: Don’t Build Islamic Center

I wonder why so many writers on “The Left” (And I consider myself an essentially left-wing thinker) want to write off any opposition as bigotry, which is a kind of bigotry in itself. I can’t imagine that anyone wanting to use the Islamic Center and all the altruistic amenities it proposes would be made to feel terrible if it were built, for example, on an empty lot I’ve passed for years on East 13th Street. By contrast, I have heard many family members of Sept. 11th victims saying it would cause them pain to have it built there, and I don’t see how allowing for that by compromising on the location is in any way indicative of the U.S. being intolerant to religious freedom. Being opposed to the building of  “a mosque” on any site would indeed be intolerance in action, but the majority of New Yorkers, according to polls, just feel that it would be preferable to not build it there. What bothers me most is the relentless campaign from the left to brand any opposition as hatred. It makes me so sad, and to me the hatred feels palpable almost, but it’s coming from “my” side.

These are some of my thoughts. I thought you might like to post the enclosed links for your Ethical Realist readers.

– Genevieve