There is only one halfway-decent reason why a mosque should be built two blocks away from Ground Zero in New York. It's called the First Amendment. Maybe you've heard of it: that's the one that lets pretty much anybody say pretty much anything they want, and, yes, that includes worshipping whatever goofy deity they choose. Mohammed. Thor. The Prince of Peace. King of Pop. John Coltrane. LeBron James. Baba Ganoush. Twiggy. Cher.
There's also one very good reason why a mosque shouldn't be built two blocks away from Ground Zero. It's a little thing called grace. A sense of common human decency. Not rubbing other peoples' noses in your own solid waste. A concept one would think a religion might be able to grasp, since their oft-described mission involves the encouragement and promulgation of those very callings, but then one would be wrong.
Political parties aren't expected to play by these rules, however. And even if they were, they wouldn't. Especially during an election year. The Republicans, as is their way, have pounced on this issue like a starving feral cat onto an exhausted mouse whose tail got stuck under a table leg. Bad blood with faint overtures of Christian degradation. Talk about straight down your social agenda wheelhouse. Just two clicks shy of abortion and three rungs below gay marriage. The war on Christmas squared.
Hoping to reverse poll numbers that have them racing Democrats to approval's sub basement, the GOP turned a municipal zoning variance into a hot-button issue, and it doesn't matter whether you're running for conditional co-councilman of Calaveras County, you will weigh in on this controversy.
Once again, Obama and his ilk are being slapped with the "out-of-touch with average Americans" brush through their stubborn insistence on upholding the U.S. Constitution. Amazing how we, the people, will fight to the death for the Constitution. Until we won't. Love the theory. Hate the details.
And I know, I know, you're right. Of course you're right. No, it is not fair that people who believe we are nothing but infidel dogs who would be better off dead than to honor a false god, get to come here and preach intolerance and are allowed to do it next to the place where some of their followers killed 3,000 innocents. It is as wrong as Cabernet Sauvignon in a can.
But that's the deal with DEMOCRACY. It's not a Chinese menu. You don't get to choose one freedom from column A and another from column B. Liberty is a buffet. With everything available to all. And the sneeze guard is free speech. Your dessert? Look over there by the fruit of your own labors. Try an emancipation eclair.
Besides, if two blocks is too close, how far away is far enough? A mile? An ocean? Two continents? I'm thinking four and a half blocks. Because there already is a mosque four blocks away from Ground Zero. Guess we tend to conserve our energy for fresh outrages rather than fussing over existing ones. Must be why they call them Conservatives.
And, oh yeah, I finally figured out why we aren't allowed to show representations of the Prophet Muhammad. Apparently, he was one strange-looking dude. Sorry. Terribly, terribly sorry. Shouldn't have said that, and wouldn't have, if I had any grace. Or simple common human decency. But alack and alas, I don't. Then again, I'm not an organized religion. Thank god.
Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comedian who writes sometimes. This being an alternately soothing yet irritating example. He has performed around the world, and is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at email@example.com.