In the course of sharing my last blog post with anyone who would listen, I summarized the theme (freedom of religion in the context of the proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan) to a friend and neighbor. He’s a rational conservative, and we agree on a good many things. At the end of my synopsis – and we were sitting with a third neighbor and friend on our commute home – the first fellow acknowledged my points.
Still, he said to me, you have to concede that there’s a “dick factor” in putting a Muslim place of worship so close to the former WTC site. The train had reached our stop and we were heading our separate ways, so I didn’t really respond. I’m not sure I knew then what to say. Actually, I’m still not sure. (I have at least a dozen possible replies, in varying degrees of snark.)
My original reason for starting this blog was, and remains, to provide responses to many of the contentions that don’t make sense to me. Not “gotcha” comebacks, as tempting as those can be, but reasoned and clear explanations for the positions I hold or reject, the public figures I support or oppose, the ideals I cherish or dismiss. And yes, arguments to change people’s minds – or at least realize that there is merit in a contrary viewpoint.
This comes from several sources within me. I was raised in a Republican family. That was our label as much as was, at the time, Episcopalian. I was never baptized into either faith. The first time I was in a church, I’m reasonably sure, was at my oldest brother’s wedding.
I was as cognizant of politics as I was of Genesis and Deuteronomy – nil – but that label stuck nonetheless. Politics was harder to dodge than religion. I ditched the GOP designation, though, when I started paying attention. The people, public and private, whose values I admired were not Republicans; they were liberals. So I did something remarkable: I changed my mind.
It’s remarkable not in the sense of being incredible; it’s remarkable in that I’m remarking upon it. Really. It’s not difficult. It is, however, fairly uncommon, in terms of political affiliation. (Politicians do it to keep their jobs; that doesn’t really count, in my book.)
So, I’ll address the notion of the “dick factor” privately and directly. But publicly, in this blog, I will try to address the divisive nonsense being spewed by people who value greed over decency, hatred over community, bigotry over compassion. In the process, I hope to deliver enough information and insights that we can start help people see a little better, and maybe change some minds in the process.
The important thing is not one viewpoint triumphing over another. It’s restoring reasoned and reasonable conversations about stuff that really matters, and making sure that discourse douses the flamers who seek only to divide and exploit.