The United States is a nation built on freedom. When the French exercised their ‘freedom’ to refrain from invading another country, Americans exercised their own ‘freedom of speech’ to say nasty things about the French. The government of the day was so intent on insulting their former friends Congress renamed French fries ‘freedom fries.’
However, I don’t remember any Americans saying nasty things about the Statue of Liberty, which France gave as a gift to the U.S.
Americans are ‘free’ to love as they choose. For example, Asian people are free to marry Latino people. However, in many states, nobody is ‘free’ to marry someone of the same gender.
In the U.S. you’re even allowed to choose your religion, to publicly worship Shiva, Zeus, Izanagi or Izanami. As far as I know, you can even worship Satan if you want, although you may not be popular for it. Americans worship wherever they want, too.
Beyond that, well, it looks like religion is subject to the same American-style freedom as marriage. That is, there’s freedom to do things that vocal groups of people with access to mass media approve of.
Some American developers have proposed building a 15-storey cultural centre near the site of the former World Trade Center. It would be an Islamic centre, and would include a mosque.
There have been huge protests. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch has been quoted saying, “It’s insensitive to build a mosque so close to the 9/11 catastrophe.”
So as a result of an attack on their freedom, Americans are denying their fellow citizens a basic, formerly American freedom. It looks as if the 9/11 attackers didn’t just knock down buildings. Nine years later, they’re still successfully dismantling that core American belief: freedom.
For a while after the 9/11 attacks, the phrase “if X happens, then the terrorists win” was commonly heard. Well, it looks like the terrorists are still racking up victories, because they have caused Americans to deny each other basic freedoms.
And why would a mosque near ground zero be insensitive? Because the attackers were Muslim? The people who committed genocide against Native Americans were Christian. Many people who have beaten and even murdered homosexuals are Christian.
I’m not attacking Christianity any more than protestors against this mosque are attacking Islam.
Obviously, just because some murderers have been Christian is no reason to attack all of Christianity. I know it hurts and it’s not fun or easy to accept, but the same applies to Islam. In fact, the same applies to all categories, groups and descriptions of people. Some Christians are violent, some aren’t. Same with Muslims. The Unabomber was Caucasian and had Polish-American parents. Should the U.S. then limit the freedoms of white men? Or just men of Polish descent?
Because I am a non-American, it is not my place to tell Americans how to treat each other (even though they do the same all the time), but the hypocrisy is painful. If they’re going to work so hard to limit each other’s freedoms, they can at least stop trumpeting their love of freedom.
I know it hurts when a loved one is murdered. But as long as emotion causes us to lash out at the innocent, nothing will improve. The presence of intense emotion is precisely the signal that the issue at hand is very, very important. And important issues deserve to be treated rationally with reason. Otherwise, no university, no religion, no invention can prevent our regress into another Dark Age.
Dave Lloyd is a musician and writer who grew up in St. Albert.