America is a beautiful place.
Despite the crazies, despite the fanatics, despite the ignorance, despite the greed, despite the decreased production—we are an amazing country. Diverse. Proud. Energetic. As a British man recently said to me during our trip to Europe, “When I go to America, I’m energized. There’s a can-do spirit that’s unmistakable. And we don’t have it. You do.”
I agree. I also agree with those who think America’s greatest gift is liberty. This country majors in liberty. You come here, you live here (legally, I’ll add for my conservative friends), you are entitled to say what you want, to believe what you want, to think what you want. In America, there’s as big a place for these fools as there is for these fools. It’s often infuraiting, but it’s unambiguously fantastic.
Over the course of the past few weeks, our liberty has been placed to the test. People are mad. Madder than mad. They’re livid, and frustrated, and anxious, and increasingly anxious to turn toward silencing citizens as opposed to living in discomfort.
First, there is the so-called Ground Zero mosque—which, it must be said yet again, is blocks away from Ground Zero. Millions of Americans hate the idea of this being built. They associate Islam and Muslims with 9.11, and don’t understand why such a place needs to be located so close to the landmark of horror that is the space once occupied by the World Trade Center.
Second, there is Terry Jones, a reverend just as I’m a Pulitzer winner. As you surely know by now, Jones is planning on holding a Koran burning at his little church in Gainesville, Fl. (By the way, I’m no Hamas fan. But I kinda dig that Ismail Haniya, Hamas’ leader, called Jones a “religious criminal” and “retard that expresses a Western-retarded mentality.” I haven’t used the word “retard” since I was probably 8 or 9. But it’s oddly perfectly placed right here). He considers Islam to be the faith of the devil, and believes we, as a nation, need to last out. Blah, blah, blah.
Personally speaking, I’m strongly in favor of the mosque and strongly against giving a tool like Jones even the slightest bit of attention. But what I love—what all Americans should love—is what both circumstances tell the world about the United States of America; tell the world about freedom.
The mosque will be built, because it’s their right to build it. That’s amazing. In 2010, on the ninth anniversary of 9.11, with hundreds of thousands of citizens in an uproar, our nation is allowing a mosque to be built where so many don’t want it. What a message—what an incredibly, remarkably, insanely powerful message about America. We might disagree with you. We might detest you. But this is a wide-open nation, and we will not block your right to exercise your liberty.
The same goes for Jones. This man is a dolt. A fool. An idiot. But in America, a dolt/fool/idiot has the right—the obligation!—to stand up and speak his mind. To burn a religious book that will inflame hostilities in a potentially damaging way. He is a citizen, and he can do this. Am I happy? Not by the actions. But by the right—absolutely.
I am baffled by all the conservatives fighting to have the mosque moved. You bark and bark and bark about government infringing in your lives. You think Obama is a Socialist, and that all citizens need guns to protect themselves. And yet, you are fully in favor of the government somehow stepping in to a private issue like this. It’s Terry Schiavo II—don’t tread on me … unless I want you to tread on me.
Freedom—it ain’t easy.
But it’s worth it.