Thursday, September 16, 2010
Two Thousand Points of Light
The view at Church Street and Park Place.
Last Friday night, the night before September 11th, TD and I attended a non-denominational rally downtown to support the new Park 51 Islamic center and mosque. Incorrectly called the "Ground Zero mosque," the center is planned two and half blocks away from Ground Zero on the site of the former Burlington Coat factory on a rather nondescript block downtown.
You know that this center and mosque has stirred up a lot of protest from those on the right who think that Muslims should not be practicing their religion there. People don't seem to know that religious freedom was the very basis upon which our country was founded, it is the very reason that the United States came into being. Several of the original thirteen colonies were established by settlers who traveled here to practice their own religion without discrimination: the Massachusetts Bay Colony was established by English Puritans, Pennsylvania by Irish and English Quakers, Maryland by English and Irish Catholics, and Virginia by English Anglicans. Now, four hundred years later, some Americans wish to take away that freedom of other Americans saying, "No, you can't do that here."
The rally to support the mosque was organized by New York Neighbors for American Values. People were asked to wear white and carry a candle but no protest posters. A vigil with style – now that's my kind of rally.
Different faith leaders and elected officials spoke and there was some singing. It was a positive and peaceful event, unlike the anti-mosque protesters who were yelling and shoving the next day on September 11th which to me was so terribly disrespectful of the horrible tragedy of the day which all New Yorkers remember with painful vividness. My brother Eric Boehlert, who is an author and senior fellow at Media Matters, wondered in his blog why the candle-light vigil did not attract more media coverage, while noisy protesters with less numbers garner more press.
Behind the rally on Friday night rose twin lights representing the twin towers.
The crowd was diverse too and wonderfully "New York." I have been recently shocked by the racist language that I have been hearing from those on the right. The new Arizona immigration law which states that police can stop and question anyone who looks like an immigrant is truly mind boggling. I think the hate is push-back against President Obama. Some people on the right seem to be saying, "Hold on a minute. Did you think we were going to have an enlightened and tolerant society just because we have an African-American president? Not so fast." But those who believe in peace, equality, harmony, progress and culture must keep up their voices and not let hate and ugliness win out. And be sure to vote in November.
As Joni Mitchell said, "Let your little light shine."