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A rolling twit gathers no mosque Add to ...

SarahPalinUSA: Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate. - Tweeted by Sarah Palin

Almost lost in the frequently amusing response to Sarah Palin's use of the word "refudiate" (a dictionarial emendation she had used previously on a talk show) - and her subsequent defence that "Shakespeare liked to coin new words too" - was the cause she was fighting for.

The Ground Zero Mosque, as it has become known, refers to Cordoba House, a proposed community centre and Islamic prayer space that would contain a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool and art-exhibition spaces. The site for the building isn't at ground zero. It's a full two Manhattan blocks (Manhattan blocks being the very opposite of New York minutes) away.

Calling it the Ground Zero Mosque is like calling Alaska "the heartland." But Google "Ground Zero Mosque" and you'll see that facts aren't important when there are heartland hearts feeling stabbed heartily.

The Cordoba House site once housed a Burlington Coat Factory, which closed in 1990. Muslims have held prayer sessions there for years, and local residents are mainly supportive of the new development. The community board voted 29-to-1 to support it. It represents a potential $150-million (U.S.) investment in an area that has, let's remember, taken some hits.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the plan. "Everything the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness," he said in response to Ms. Palin's tweets. In other words, when it comes to multiculturalism and coping with terrorist attacks and their aftermath, don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.

Ms. Palin's tweet implies that "peaceful Muslims" (a phrase that has a "Jews For Jesus" feel to it, suggesting a conversion from some unrefined state) ought to perpetually atone for the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. Sort of the way I, as a baptized Catholic, should distance myself from Mel Gibson, because of course we all pretty much hang out together on weekends, and I should've kept an eye on him.

Is there a piece of paper "peaceful Muslims" should sign that "refudiates" violence? And where are Muslims meant to meet to sign these testimemorials of refudiation, since the places they meet are now apparently inherently suspect? Perhaps in the sewers, or the catacombs?

Just how far Muslims living in lower Manhattan should keep their places of worship from the World Trade Center site, no one has explained. Would five blocks be okay? How about seven? What about three, but they're not allowed to heat the building in the winter?

Maybe they should be allowed to come one metre closer for each Muslim who was working in the Twin Towers when the planes hit? And should these same, newly evolving building-codes-of-conscience be applied in the blocks surrounding the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City because Timothy McVeigh professed a faith in the "core beliefs" of Christianity?

Much of the outrage over the originally uncontroversial centre (now there are protests, and Ms. Palin, noted for her ability to pack vast amounts of bile into 140 characters, can't seem to let this one go) hints at a suspicion that New Yorkers have failed to wring the appropriate amount of rage from the events of Sept. 11.

They've been rather London Blitz about the whole thing - as people often are when confronted with real catastrophe. Very little faith-baiting went on in the aftermath. But now "the heartland" seems to be demanding a kick at the can.

Ms. Palin tweeted several times on this issue. First, she erased her initial tweet (farewell, "refudiate") and wrote "Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real." This would be the second folio, I guess.

The rephrased appeal to "Peaceful New Yorkers" is as disturbing as the original. Does she believe that Manhattan is populated mostly by Huns?

The whole thing feels almost like a corporate takeover, an attempt to appropriate the events of Sept. 11 - the real estate, the story, the characters, the themes and the licence to print rage that logically, but not necessarily, accompanies them.

It's as if the conclusion reached by Ms. Palin on behalf of the "real Americans" she claims to represent is that they could manage this potential resource better, extracting more hate from it. So they're making a serious bid.

In exchange, they're offering something winnable: America likely won't capture Osama bin Laden, but they've got a shot at nixing that Aquafit class.

 

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