What Does America Mean To You?

If someone was to ask me what America means in one word, I would say, “Freedom”. Freedom to say what you want to say. Freedom to believe what you want to believe. This is why America is the envy of other nations, and why extremist religious groups—of all ilks—hate us with a burning passion. This freedom that we have was hard fought, and we must continually fight to preserve it.

Perhaps this is why all the flak over the Islamic cultural center in New York bothers me. This Islamophobia has gotten so bad that Islamic groups are cancelling annual celebrations just because the calendar this year makes them happen on 9/11. That’s plain wrong. No religion should have to censor itself in this country; when that happens, that means our freedoms have been curtailed.

Back in the 1920s, there were intense phobias against the Jews. Men like Father Coughlin and, yes, Henry Ford, were virulently antisemetic. But Judaism, perhaps because it was understandable to mainstream Christianity (having come before it), got a pass. But ignorance seems to be celebrated in this country, and the ignorant fear what they do not know. The ignorant think all Islamics are terrorists, without understanding that Islam is just the next step in the progression of Judaism and Christianity. We haven’t yet had an accessible Islamic leader that can make Islam understood by the American people.

This fear is leading to idiotic arguments; arguments that would not occur if we were talking about any other religion. If zoning permitted a Christian cultural center near ground zero, it would be embraced. There would be no uproar about a Buddhist or Hindu cultural center in the area. If a Christian group wanted to have a carnival the weekend of 9/11, there would be no protests (remember, 9/11 is not a national day of observance yet). If there was a Shinto gathering that day, no one would care. So why are we upset when Islam wants to observe their religion. What makes the US special is simply that: they have the freedom to observe, without the government dictating anything.

Why can’t the Conservatives see that if we give in on that, we’re doing just what the terrorists who attacked the tower would want us to do: curtail our freedoms in response to their attack. We can’t do that. We must proudly celebrate our Religious freedom, as well as our feedom of speech. We must insist on the Islamic Cultural Center in that area just to demonstrate how important freedom of religion is to us; while we’re at it, let’s have centers for other religions (and a non-sectarian center) as well.

Our Bill of Rights is what makes America special. No right is greater than the other. As much as the 2nd amendment is cherished, and the 1st amendment is abused through the commenting mechanism on news websites, we must vigorously define our right to worship in a multitude of ways.

P.S.: Of course, if what you said America meant to you was “Baseball”, not “Freedom”, then you might want to read this article on the Lancaster Jethawks. Baseball as it was meant to be. I can attest to that, having been to a Jethawks game, and having found it immensely more enjoyable than any Dodger game.