Saturday, September 11, 2010
Of Mosques and (American) Madness
As we debate the right and the wisdom of an Islamic center and mosque being built in the shadow of Ground Zero, Americans of all ages would be mindful to acquaint themselves with two names from our recent history: Norma Greene and Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan; one citizen from our shameful past, the other from our painful present.
In 1942, Greene, a second lieutenant nurse in Tuskegee’s medical corps, was savagely beaten by a pair of police officers who broke her nose and blackened her eyes following a shopping trip as she prepared for overseas duty. Greene’s assault, an indignity suffered by many a black soldier during WWII, stemmed from her refusal to exit a “white” bus in the segregated south.
Over the centuries blacks have served our country in its wars, fostering the American values of freedom and equality abroad – even when those same “inalienable” rights were not afforded their countrymen on their native soil.
And what American can honestly say they have not marveled at why the “darker brother” – the most loyal citizen among us – has done and continues to do so even today.
The rationale is not difficult to comprehend; because despite the inequitable treatment endured by their race for hundreds of years, the African American truly believes in the promise of this nation and its Constitution which, in its First Amendment specifically guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Which renders the current brouhaha questioning the patriotism and the right of our Muslim brethren to construct a house of worship when and where they please even more unfathomable.
Imperfect as it is, this grand experiment that is our nation has always been a beacon of hope that has propelled us ever forward; a hope so eloquently expressed by our third President Thomas Jefferson “that all men are created equal” – despite his moral flaw of being a slaveholder.
It is this same intangible longing that over the decades has compelled millions from all corners of the world to sacrifice life and limb for the chance of a better life they aspire to encounter on these distant shores.
This sacred bargain is now being threatened by the illogical conceits of those who take our country’s founding document for granted by not living up its words.
However, those citizens of good conscience who do sincerely believe in the continual, positive evolution of this nation shall not be deterred from the path clearly set forth some two centuries ago.
Americans of all faiths – including Muslims – perished in the embers of that fateful day nine years ago.
As such, it is shameful that our President, on the eve of the 9/11 commemoration, was placed in the unfortunate position of chiding our countrymen with the understanding that Muslims are indeed serving in our nation’s military – in Afghanistan and Iraq, no less – and that “part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.”
The responsibility and duty of being an American – E pluribus unum, “out of many, one” – and comprehending what this solemn trust genuinely entails, is an appreciation that ought to be inbred within and lived to the marrow by each and every one of the citizens of this great nation. It is an ideal we should all strive to achieve. Each and every day.
If not, then one would do well to be enlightened by Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a 20-year old New Jersey native who sacrificed his life in Iraq three years ago in service to these United States.
The photograph of his grieving mother draped over his tombstone – adorned with a crescent moon and star – at Arlington National Cemetery, would be a most potent reminder of this obligation.