I posed a question on twitter yesterday:
Is it hypocritical to attack the NYC mosque project while applauding Glenn Beck’s use of the Lincoln Memorial? (or vice versa.)
I got one angry reply from an apparent Glenn Beck fan insulting my intelligence, and one person replying that “they’re both wrong”. I figure I shouldn’t just leave the question hanging, but answer it with my own reasoning as well.
No matter how distasteful I find Beck’s appropriation of the Lincoln Monument for his ideological ends — a place where the Civil Rights Movement in America found one of its most sublime expressions in Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech — he has the right to use the space. (Assuming he can actually get a permit, which does look likely.) Large rallies are one of the points of the space, and there have been plenty of other events at the location that didn’t impinge on the legacy of Dr. King. Do I wish he were doing it elsewhere? Yes, probably. It’s a slap in the face of civil rights groups to hold it on the anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech, and invites unnecessary rhetoric on both sides. But he should be allowed to hold the rally.
At the same time, the issue of the ‘ground zero mosque’ — an abysmally dumb name that it’s been saddled with by the media, seeing it is neither at ground zero nor entirely a mosque — can be considered on equivalent grounds. Does this group have the right to build this building where they want to build it? By all accounts, yes, local zoning laws allow for it. Is it unfortunate that it’s being built there at this exact moment, when demagogues on the right can exploit the planned construction for maximum political effect nationwide? Yes. But that’s none of my concern. It’s hard for me to have an opinion of the construction, not being a New Yorker. It will, basically, never effect me — even if I move to New York City sometime in the future. The only people’s opinions on the matter that should count are those who’ll share a street with the building.
At the same time, I think that if you were to object to either one of these projects, you would have to, logically, object to the other one — for much the same reasons as I just laid out above, albeit in reverse. If the New York City Islamic Center is infringing on a place of hallowed reverence and trampling on the memories of those who lost loved ones in the attacks of September 11th, then wouldn’t Glenn Beck using the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech also trample on the sensitivities and memories of those who marched with him on that day 47 years ago? (And maybe also the rally the NAACP could have held at the same location.)