The court of public opinion has been making decisions based in myth–not fact. These sometimes bizarre rumors seem like they should be a joke, but are instead, frighteningly real. With this in mind, I want to discuss the ramifications of the debate surrounds the proposed Muslim center near the site of Ground Zero.
The battle between intelligence and ignorance has intensified since the election of Barack Obama, and it often has a surreal partisan edge, centering around the biography and the identity of the President. A disturbing report in today’s New York Times: “a new poll by the Pew Research Center finds a substantial rise in the percentage of Americans who believe, incorrectly, that Mr. Obama is Muslim. The president is Christian, but 18 percent now believe he is Muslim, up from 12 percent when he ran for the presidency and 11 percent after he was inaugurated.” (link)
This is puzzling. “Obama is a Muslim.” “He is not an American citizen.” Can people seriously believe such things? Apparently they do. They ignore the facts to the contrary, either cynically or because they allow their convictions to blind them from the stubborn truth of factuality. Mostly this seems amusing. The material for nightly satires on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. But in that a major source of news, Fox News, regularly confuses fabrication with facts and many people base their opinions upon this confusion, suggests that there is a cultural crisis, a cultural war worth fighting.
It is not primarily a partisan battle, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is a struggle to make sure that factual truth is the grounds for public life. It is in this context that I think the case of the so called Ground Zero Mosque should be understood. The controversy itself indicates a major cultural and political defeat. The struggle is to get beyond the controversy, and it seems to me that the only outcome must be to build the Park Islamic Cultural Center.
It should be clear to anyone who wants to know the facts that Barack Obama is an American citizen, born in Hawaii, . . .