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This is why I “support” majoritarian rule.

[ 33 ] August 31, 2010 |

As a means of registering my discontent with conservative claims that the fact that 70 percent of Americans abhor the idea of the “Ground Zero Mosque” means it should be abandoned, I hereby present other things that 70 percent of “certain” Americans once hated.  For example, consider the responses to this question from a Gallup Poll reported in the Los Angeles Times on 14 July 1963.*

I snipped the June numbers because at that point only 62 percent of respondents had decided that the Civil Rights Movement was moving “Too fast.”  I also have other, less inflammatory, examples.  To wit:


That would be from the Los Angeles Times four days earlier.**  I did say I was only referencing “certain” Americans, however, and because I’m an honest chap, I’ll tell you that Gallup calls them “Southern Whites.”  You heard that correctly: the same conservatives who illegitimately claim the moral high ground Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled to capture have the same high regard for Muslims as Southern segregationists once did for blacks.  To put it finely:

Those who oppose the building of Park51 are justifying their opposition on the fact that the same percentage of Americans are currently as bigoted as Southern whites demonstrated themselves to be when asked how they would “feel about a law which would give all persons—Negro as well as white—the right to be served in public places such as hotels, restaurants, theaters and similar establishments.”  All of which is only to say that insisting that this “is” should be enshrined in history as an “ought” makes a person as big of a bastard as a Southern white who couldn’t brook the thought of sharing his or her establishments with an African-American.

It’s a rebellious stance to be sure, but in the end they’ll be standing in a field screaming “Wolverines!” while the world passes them by.

*Gallup, George. “Views Revised on Rights Push.” Los Angeles Times (14 June 1963): M2.

**Gallup, George. “Slim Majority Backs Accommodations Bill.” Los Angeles Times (10 July 1963): C18.

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  1. uncle rameau says:

    oh my, that was bracing.

  2. Scott, I don’t think any laws should be gamed or overridden to stop them from building. They have the legal right to do so. And hell, maybe they are sincere in what they say, that they are attempting to build bridges. The problem is, the center is instead coming across like a touchdown dance in America’s endzone, a celebration of the belief system for which the 9/11 victims were murdered. If they didn’t know this before, they do now, and it isn’t wrong to ask some of the same sensitivity from them that they–and liberals–are always demanding of us.

    Thank you for taking notice of my poor bloggy offerings, btw.

    • Murc says:

      Interesting use of words there, SI. You say the center is ‘coming across’ like a touchdown dance in Americas endzone. Okay, I’ll bite on this. How so? To whom? Please be specific.

      For my part, as near as I can tell, it’s basically going to be a Muslim-flavored YMCA. There are something like 800,000 Muslims in NYC, many of them live, work, and recreate in lower Manhattan (you can’t walk a block without finding a halal cart) and it seems like siting this community center where it is makes perfect sense. Hell, there’s an ACTUAL mosque a couple blocks away from it for those whom a simple prayer room just won’t cut it. Should we close that sucker down?

      Basically, I could give a damn if people are offended; I care if their offense is JUSTIFIED. I’d be pretty honked off myself if Imam Rauf were saying ‘Oh, yes. We’re going to be getting some hard-core wahabbist shit all up in this.’ That doesn’t seem to be the case.

      • If we must summon Captain Obvious to the rescue, yes: all those things are true. I don’t know of many serious people who’ve said otherwise. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone about religious freedom in this country.

        The endzone dance thing.
        The meme’s out there.

        And I also get that most New Yorkers are not as exercised about this as red staters are. That’s the nature of New York. More than three-quarters of a century ago H. L. Mencken observed that every wave of popular passion that rolled up from the heartland was dashed to spray when it hit the hard rocks of Manhattan. So, if you don’t care what the mosque opponents feel, then fine. But not caring is not the same as not understanding, so do yourself a favor and try to see things from the POV of people who are grieved by this thing.

        If it helps, think of this analogy: In order to build bridges with Vietnam, signaling a new era of friendship and bridge-building with them, let’s put up a statue of General Westmoreland next to their war memorial in Hanoi.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          The analogy fails, of course. Westmoreland himself actually commanded military operations in Vietnam. The people who want to build the community center on sacred Burlington Coat Factory ground had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

          The argument against Park51 needs these transparently specious analogies precisely because these guilt-by-association arguments would never be applied to a popular religious group.

          • Mmm, don’t know about that last part. I’ve read quite a lot of “the straight white male conservative Christian middle-class American taxpayer is the root of all evil” in progressive slickzines over the years.

            • partisan says:

              Even if this were true (and actually left wing journals are more likely to try to find some way of appealing to this group), the logic is idiotic. Some (unnamed) liberals make grossly sweeping comments about white male conservative Christians. Although this is grossly unfair, we are therefore entitled to make grossly sweeping comments about Muslims. And can I point out that since the Republican party nor anyone else does not have a strategy to convert the world’s Muslims to something else, we therefore have to find some way of working with Muslims to isolate terrorists.

            • John Protevi says:

              Nice dodge of the important point, there, Inspector. What is your response to Scott’s first paragraph?

            • Brad Potts says:

              And why wouldn’t your opinion be just as idiotic as the opinions expressed in those “progressive slickzines”?

              The “But they do it too!” argument rests on the acknowledgment of guilt. If they are guilty, aren’t you guilty too?

        • Murc says:

          For the Westmoreland thing, Scott said it better than I could have, so I’ll just add in a ‘me too.’

          Now, as for the caring/understanding thing… first, it’s not a binary thing. I can both perfectly understand why someone would oppose Park51 (note; I make NO claim to such perfect understanding) while simultaneously not caring at all, because I’ve determined in my own mind that their objections are specious.

          I’d also like to say this; anyone who is actually GRIEVED by Park51, that is, feels like its metaphorically knifing them in the soul, my heart goes out to them. They clearly have enormous issues due to past trauma if something as innocuous as a community center can do that to them, and I hope they get the help and support they need from family and from community.

          That said… we don’t generally make public policy around such people. Example; I know of people who, after horrific accidents involving automobiles, developed phobias of the things. The solution wasn’t ‘lets make sure they never have to see a car’ but ‘lets help them get past their issues.’ Same deal.

          As for people who are OUTRAGED by Park51, rather than grieved, and couching their outrage in terms of ‘this represents Al-Qaida planting a victory flag right up America’s ass’… I tend to pity such people, or hold them in deep contempt. They are at best dupes, at worst hateful.

        • DocAmazing says:

          We don’t have to prove anything to anyone about religious freedom in this country.

          Actually, yeah, we do. When the Air Force Academy is an evangelical recruitment center, and when Congressmembers are pushing publicly-funded prayer and excoriating atheists, and when Texas sets the standards for textbooks in numerous US states with creationist material prominently featured, and … shit, do I really need to go on? SI, we’re plagues with religious extremists in this country, and they ain’t Muslims. When Christianists quit forcing their beliefs upon the rest of us, then come talk to me about the threat (real or emotional) posed by Muslims.

        • The endzone dance thing. The meme’s out there.

          Other memes that are “out there:”

          -Barrack Obama is really a Muslim who wasn’t born in the U.S.
          -9/11 was an inside job.
          -Mexican drug gangs are taking over ranches in Texas.
          -Reptilian aliens have taken over key government and media positions, and you can see them transform on TV.
          -Obamacare includes death panels for senior citizens.
          -Commies are sapping our precious bodily fluids.

          I suppose we should show sensitivity to the people who believe these things as well?

          • elm says:

            Wow, that reptile person thing is fantastic: I didn’t realize that there were people out there who seem to think V is a documentary!

            It also led me to David Icke who’s wikipedia page states the following: “At the heart of his theories lies the idea that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian, including George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Kris Kristofferson, and Boxcar Willie.”

            Interesting list of reptiles. Clearly, if I were trying to rule the world, Kristofferson would be on the top of my list of people needed to further the coup.

          • Sitakali says:

            Hey did you just reference Dr. Strangelove? Win!

        • kth says:

          “The meme’s out there” = “wingnut blogs think that’s a clever if inflammatory way of distorting the Cordoba group’s aims”, and I’m only judging by the links in the Google query you provided (breitbart.tv is one of them and quite typical).

    • STH says:

      If you are unable to imagine the possibility of any motive for this other than the ugliest possible one, or to perceive the difference between the “belief system for which the 9/11 victims were murdered” and the views of the landowners here, it seems to me that you’re the one with the “sensitivity” problem.

  3. Wait. Are you suggesting my rights shouldn’t depend on the opinions of random people on the street?

    Sheesh, what a radical.

  4. STH says:

    Scott is absolutely correct; the “outrage” against this community center rests on the perception that all Muslims are identical and interchangeable, and that therefore the builders of this center are the terrorists of 9/11. This is classic stereotyping and prejudice against a hated minority. Is that the POV you thought we should understand?

  5. Yosemite Semite says:

    Ah, yes — majority rule. Many years ago, I had a chat with an old lady who lived in my home town. She was from one of the Irish Catholic ranch families in the far reaches of a county about the size of New Jersey, she told me that she had been sent to boarding school as a child: Sacred Heart Academy in Klamath Falls, Oregon. One evening while she was there, she heard a giant ruckus outside, and climbed out onto the roof of the building to see what was going on. It was the friendly local Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan, latterly shown in revisionist histories to be simple civic-minded folk expressing their concerns — sort of like the Tea Parties — protesting against Catholic schools in their community. The girl, of course, didn’t understand what that was all about. Those protests led in 1922 to the election of a governor (Walter M. Pierce, 17th governor of Oregon) with the biggest popular margin in the state’s history, gained largely with the support of the Klan. Under his governorship, the legislature passed the Compulsory Education Act, requiring all children to attend public schools (not private, and certainly not denominational — read Catholic — schools).

    There were virulent anti-Catholic stories making the rounds, similar to those made about Muslims today, such as this one, reported in the Klamath Falls Herald on 5 December 1923:

    “The birth of every male child in a Catholic family is celebrated by burying a gun and ammunition underneath the church, in preparation for the day when the government is to be overthrown on behalf of the pope. [sic]”

    So with the mosque controversy, we’re just taking another turn on the nativist, know-nothing merry-go-round of American popular culture, back to where we were before. The good news, though, is that the Klan in Oregon quickly turned to demonizing their own for lack of ideological purity, and couldn’t hold on to power. That being said, however, it was damned ugly for a while.

  6. partisan says:

    Guess what! The New Criterion is back from its summer vacation, and has an editorial on the “Ground Zero Mosque,” To no one’s surprise is appalled at it, and appalled that anyone would defend it: http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Wrong-vs–Rights-6273 Any comments on it? Keep in mind this is the journal that all right thinking conservatives believe is the moral and cultural exemplar of American intellectual life, to be preferred to the cowardice of The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, let alone the nihilist deconstructionists of The Nation and The Village Voice.

  7. Fritz says:

    I think this is odd. Let me know if you agree. The 71% of Americans referenced aren’t conservatives, but rather a small subset of Americans. The Quinnipiac University polled measured the opinions of registered voters in New York State. What Quinnipiac University is measuring isn’t the attitudes of conservatives, of Republicans, or of any ideologically identified sub-group, but all New Yorkers who were motivated and sophisticated enough to register to vote (which may or may not have been a criteria in the Gallup Poll). And, since New York is a very blue state (When is the last time a Republican presidential candidate won New York? 1984. How much more did Obama win New York by compared to the national average? 26.9% vs. 7.2% What does their Congressional delegation look like? 2 Republicans out of 29 total.), some (many/most?) of those antipathetic respondents are going to be liberal Democrats.

    One might think you would appreciate the bipartisanship.

    Is antipathetic necessarily the same thing as bigoted?

    • Craig Pennington says:

      Is antipathetic necessarily the same thing as bigoted?

      I have seen no opposition to Park51 that isn’t based on the bigoted assignment of collective guilt to all Muslims. It’s why, with a few spare exceptions, arguers talk about the motives of Muslims in general rather than actually quoting the people behind Park51.

      So, yes, I’d argue that antipathy in the absence of a non-bigoted justification for said antipathy is evidence of bigotry.

  8. Davis says:

    That 70% number is depressing, so I have to believe that most of them haven’t paid close attention and are misinformed. The very term Ground Zero Mosque says it all for most people. It is not “on” or “next to” Ground Zero, and it is not a mosque but a community center with a prayer room. The victory dance meme is pure propaganda pushed by the lunatic Pam Geller, who somehow got on CNN to spread her lies.

    I remember many years ago a poll that showed that most Americans would not approve the Bill of Rights if put to a referendum. Thank you, James Madison.

  9. G. Marx says:

    Opps! Looks like in my internet travels, I’ve yet again stumbled upon yet another straw man. Egads, they’re everywhere!

  10. [...] So fine two thirds of the population are against the Ground Zero community center.  What else have two thirds of the people been against?  I wonder.  Let's go back in time: [...]

  11. A. Nonymous says:

    The plan is obvious – follow the money. The project is being funded by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – the second-largest shareholder of Fox News’ parent company News Corp. The goal is to create as much controversy and anger as possible, to get Fox’ viewer base angried up for the fall elections.

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