As a teenager, I sometimes wondered why the song, “Share the End,” was on the Carly Simon album Anticipation. It stood out from the love songs and soft ballads that led me to buy the album. In 1972, I thought it unusual for a nice Jewish girl to be writing a song about the hypocrisy of priests burning a mosque, but I got it. She was ahead of her time. That song is apocalyptic in no uncertain terms, and a cautionary tale:
“Here come the madmen, they’re too excited for apologizing
Burn the mosque they’re shouting, burn it down.
Save me a place, surround me with friendly faces
All of us have gathered here to share the end –
To watch the world go up in flames.”
The drama over the mosque at Ground Zero is being played out in other parts of the country too. Because the 9-11 terrorists were Muslims, the association is inescapable. But the terrorists were not representatives of Islam, any more than Tim McVeigh was an exemplary Christian. Would people object to a church placed near the Oklahoma City bombing site? In World War II Americans rounded up and detained Japanese and Italians. Supposedly, we learned from those mistakes and vowed to not repeat them. The public dynamic over Islam is one of hysteria, and it is being fed by political expediency. Sadly, some Democrats and Jewish leaders have joined the tea-party activists and right-wing hate-mongers in fueling this hysteria.
We have yet another unholy alliance between right-wing Jews and right-wing Christians. Some Jews are so focused their own narrow interpretation of what’s “good for the Jews,” that they embrace positions that are inimical to their self-interests – like most Republican policies and positions. Jews are easily cowed into supporting political positions that are anti-Jewish, if the sponsor is a supporter of Israel . Killing us with kindness? You bet.
The Anti-Defamation League once played a vital role at one time in protecting Jewish communities from abuse, vandalism, denial of civil rights and worse. Their position is that a mosque near Ground Zero is bad for the Jews. Sadly, that once credible organization has turned into a mouthpiece for many right-wing causes, which happen to be “pro-Israel” in one way or another. In their effort to marginalize Jews who question Israel ’s policies, they have marginalized themselves. Why should Jews support an ideology that wants to herd us all into one place so they can get on with their Apocalypse? Why did Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus give $26,000 to the lieutenant governor campaign of Ralph Reed in Georgia in 2005? Why do so many Jews support causes and issues that are inimical to Judaism and the personal liberties of many Americans? Because if a right-wing politician says, “I support Israel ,” his/her ridicule about the Constitution or a person’s right to choose (about anything – not just abortion) is mitigated.
This dynamic makes me think of the first tough philosophy question I was posed with as a child in Temple Sunday School : Are we Americans or Jews first; and what if America and Israel had a conflicting interest? Where would we stand? The countries’ interests needn’t be mutually exclusive, but a challenging dialectic is emerging as Israel appears to be shifting to the right again under Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. Like President Clinton before him, President Obama is making a serious effort at brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace once and for all, from a pragmatic point of view.
Here’s a quick and easy solution to that problem of a mosque at Ground Zero. Build the mosque, but don’t stop there. Also build a synagogue and an ecumenical church within that $100M plan. Make it an all-encompassing tribute to the spirituality of all three religions. Or maybe don’t leave anybody out. Create a section for Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i and any other religion that merits inclusion.
The proposal calls for more than a mosque. It’s really an Islamic Community Center, modeled after the Jewish Community Center and YMCA. Make it a Global Spiritual Community Center with small houses of worship adjoined to the parkland, pool, basketball courts and performance hall.
Media talking heads and bloggers are wearing out the phrase, “Sacred Ground.” Indeed it is sacred ground. Now, let’s fully sanction it and honor those who perished there. Build a courtyard and parkland area within a circle of the houses of worship. Place tributes to the individuals who died there in the form of embossed bricks, statues and other fitting monuments. Allow the families of survivors to weigh in on how or if they would like to see their loved ones honored there.
Scott Prostermanis a music, film and dance historian in Berkeley. He worked as a disc jockey in Pittsburgh and Memphis, where he grew up and where it all began. He was born in the 50s, grew up in the 60s, thrived in the 70s, barely survived the 80s, and re-grouped in the 90s.