The Myth of the Opposition: A Response to Eugene Robinson

I have said many times before that the media always gets it wrong. When a friend of mine was killed in the line of duty, they reported he was an Iraq war veteran – and STILL report him as one nearly four years later, though it was his older brother who went. I’ve seen calls I’ve responded to badly mutilated by the media so often that I now refuse to watch the news reports on calls that I’ve been on (I actually mute the TV and leave the room).

Why should it be so surprising that the press is misinterpreting our opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque – and those who disagree are feeding that misinterpretation? When news crews show up at a major incident scene, they know we’re not going to talk to them. We’re not allowed to. They will, however, talk to any bystander who says they know what happened. Often they’re interviewing people who don’t really know what happened. It sure as hell makes for good TV, though, and everyone in the free world believes the BS.

In the run-up to Mark’s next post in his series, I wanted to give a short missive on my irritation at those who are castigating those of us who oppose the building of a mosque just a block from Ground Zero. I have read many articles – both “official” and officially op-ed – that have weighed in on the opposition. Each and every one of them have completely misunderstood us.

Eugene Robinson, in his column for the Washington Post, said, “lies, distortions, jingoism, xenophobia — another day, another campaign issue that Republicans can use to bash President Obama and the Democrats.” His entire offering is a string of lies, little more than an over-emotional temper tantrum from a man who churns out much of the same with every post.

Robinson accuses us of ignoring the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, but he has missed the entire point (I think he does it deliberately). He quotes Newt Gingrich, who said, “there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” He quotes Mike Huckabee, who said that supporters of the project have the attitude that “we can offend Americans and Christians, but not foreigners and Muslims.” He also quotes Sarah Palin, who said, “Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts.”

He uses these quotes to claim that we, as conservatives opposed to the building of a mosque walking distance from the site where nearly 3,000 innocent souls were murdered, are trying to deprive the group building the Park51 mosque of their Constitutional rights. In reality, we’re not trying to strip anybody’s rights; in fact, we’re merely exercising our own First Amendment rights. Freedom of speech, baby.

Where, in any of the comments made about the location of this mosque, has one of these big-name conservative superstars suggested finding a government-backed route to stopping the mosque from being built? Have Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin, or others like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty actually called for government entities to end the drive to build the mosque? Has one of them argued that the mosque CAN be legally stopped?

In a word: NO.

None of us have. Sure, we have expressed outrage. On 9/11, 19 Muslims hijacked four commercial jetliners and used them as passenger-laden guided missiles. Their intent was to attack not just New York, not just Washington DC, not just the government – their intent was to attack America and her people. It wasn’t just an attack on the Twin Towers or Lower Manhattan, it was an attack on all of us. It was intended to send a message. The message was received. Ever since, Muslims all over the world have applauded the “sacrifice” of the hijackers. When Iranian “president” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to visit Ground Zero just a couple of years ago we all became indignant and thousands of people came from around the country to attempt to physically block his motorcade from getting near that site.

Today, our message is clear. You have the right to buy the building at Park51 (which closed shortly after 9/11, when a chunk of the landing gear from one of the planes crashed through the building’s roof). You have the right to claim that the US government was complicit in the attacks on 9/11. You have the right to build the mosque and open it for worship.

We, however, have the right to tell you we don’t appreciate it. We have the right to protest. We have the right to refuse to give money or otherwise support the venture. We have the right to refuse to pick up so much as a wall tack to do work on your project, ensuring that you’ll have to truck in the construction workers to build it.

We have the same rights that they do, Mr. Robinson. We will exercise them in like fashion. The point we’re trying to make is that having the right to do or say something doesn’t mean that you should. If a group of white supremacists who claimed peaceful intent wanted to open a white pride community center near the site where MLK was assassinated, you would scream bloody murder, as would I. The principle is the same.