Someone asked Oz Sultan, spokesperson for the Cordoba House project, whether his group would accept funds from overseas, in particular the Middle East. Sultan said, in effect that the group was still working out its fundraising strategies, and no decisions had been made. This led to ABC news issuing a report that ties hypothetical Saudi donations to the September 11 attack. The report’s strong implication is that most of the 9/11 perps were Saudis; therefore, all money from Saudi Arabia is connected to 9/11.
This was not the New York Post, mind you, but ABC News. Although I believe the New York Post reported the story the same way.
Of course, the evil Iran also is in the Middle East. I saw a news story this morning — it seems to have been taken down already — that ran a photo of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf next to one of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under a headline saying that money from Iran could be used to build the Islamic center. If you didn’t read the story itself very, very carefully, you’d believe it said that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was funding the “ground zero mosque.” But what Sultan said was that although the group would prefer to raise the money from domestic donations, they hadn’t yet ruled out accepting donations from people in the Middle East. Not everyone in the Middle East is a terrorist or a dictator, you know.
As Politico points out, so far all the planners have are intentions. They haven’t raised the money for the project yet. They haven’t acquired all the property they plan to use, just some of it. They haven’t even hired an architect. In fact, the Politico article says, they haven’t even hired a lobbyist. How can you possibly get anything done without a lobbyist?
Meanwhile, the percentage of the American public who thinks the president is a Muslim is growing. See also “In Defining Obama, Misperceptions Stick.”
Also meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Americans don’t understand the concept of “rights.” That’s rather sad, considering that our nation allegedly was founded on the principle of human rights, or the Rights of Man, as Thomas Paine called them. It appears, however, that large numbers of Americans think of “rights” as somewhat abstract privileges granted by the consent of society.
Thus, some Americans seem to think that while some Muslims in Manhattan may have a right to build an Islamic Center near Ground Zero, somehow preventing the center from being built is not an abridgment of that right. Muslims still have the right to build whatever they want on private property in principle; they just can’t be allowed to actually do it.
I’ve said before that conservatives seem to interpret freedom of speech as a right to not be disagreed with. At The American Prospect, Adam Serwer has a couple of posts up on “Tribalism And Constitutional Rights” that go into this.
It’s not surprising that Sarah Palin would come out in support of Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s interpretation of the First Amendment as not guaranteeing freedom of speech, but rather freedom from criticism. Palin’s expressed similar beliefs before, basically that the First Amendment only guarantees her and her political allies freedom of speech, while any criticism of her statements is an unconstitutional infringement on her right to say whatever she wants.
Of course, if Palin really does have a right not to be disagreed with, that means other people do not have the right to express opinions about Palin’s opinions. Serwer then calls out the implied rightie understanding of “rights” as privileges that belong only to right-thinking Americans, e.g., people who think the way they do.
The other assumption we’ve seen on the Right lately is the idea that a view held by a majority of Americans cannot be bigotry. This assumes that empirical reality is subject to majority rule, which I suppose is a natural extension of the idea that “we create our own reality.”
But, as I keep saying, there have been plenty of times in American history when a majority opinion reeked of bigotry. Before the Civil War, only a minority of Americans, including northerners, favored a complete abolition of slavery, for example. Until relatively recent times, most whites genuinely believed whiteness conferred some inherent superiority over other races. A 19th century white person who was not a white supremacist by today’s standards was extremely rare. Abraham Lincoln himself was a white supremacist by today’s standards.
And you don’t have to go back to the 19th century. If you are old enough to remember the “school busing” controversy, when courts after Brown v. Board of Ed were ordering schools to be desegregated, you remember another time America lost its mind. In some places whites literally rioted in the streets, and not just in the South. I remember white mobs attacking buses carrying black children. Although I don’t know numbers, I believe a majority of white Americans wanted to keep segregation in effect. So, yes, majority opinion can be bigoted.
Serwer says in the second of his posts, “prejudice does not cease being prejudice because it is widely held.” It’s obvious a large number of Americans, I assume a majority, harbor some prejudices against Muslims. People can complain about being bigots all they like; lumping all Muslims together with the September 11 perpetrators is bigotry, by definition. Just because everyone else they know thinks the same way doesn’t make prejudice not prejudice.
Living in a nation where people enjoy certain inalienable rights means that lots of times other people are going to do things you don’t like. It also means people will express disagreement with your opinion. If we have a rule of law and not a rule of mob, that’s how it is. A free society depends on most people understanding that.