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The Manhattan Mosque: Of Republican Bigots and Spineless Democrats


Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Aug 18, 2010

It’s amazing.  Republican bigots continue to pile on the anti-Islam, anti-mosque bandwagon, and Democrats continue to get sucked into their trap of right-wing demagoguery, spineless and afraid of their own shadow.  Even Harry Reid, majority leader of the U.S. Senate, has fallen prey, refusing to stand up to the lure of the Manhattan mosque controversy when his right-wing opponent called him out on it; it should go somewhere else, he asserted.  The President himself waffled on the issue, most likely as a result of Democratic pressure to just keep quiet about it.  By such reasoning, no Christian church should be anywhere near the site of the Oklahoma City  bombing of 1995.

The utterly shameless Republican assault on the Manhattan mosque/community center for partisan political advantage is sheer bigotry.  That these foul bigots go virtually unchallenged is equally shameless.  Spineless Democrats, instead of fighting back and using the stirred-up controversy as a basic civics lesson, have run for cover once again, as they have so often when tea-stained Republicans, nativists, and demagogues raise their voices or shake their fists.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is among the few politicians who took strong leadership on the issue, standing up to the bigots, and affirming the City’s rightful position of support for the Islamic center near Ground Zero in his elegant remarks delivered on Governor’s Island August 3.

There is little wonder that Republican (and some Democratic) bigots are winning on so many political fronts these days: the political will to counter their pandering to a mob mentality seems to have been sucked out of Democrats as both parties vie for November votes.  The harsh reality is that there is little visionary and credible leadership in either party at a time when the country is in dire straits and hungering for direction, and for serious and effective action to address the myriad challenges before us.  Congress is in shambles; the Administration is locked down and locked out; forward movement is negligible; and no one is stepping out to lead courageously.  The mood in the country is sour once again, and ripe, thereby, for bigots and demagogues to prevail, especially if left unchallenged.

In this regard, the need for progressive, grassroots organizing is critical in communities across the nation.  The day after Barack Obama was elected we forcefully stated the obvious: that the commitment to organize had to begin anew, that the challenges facing us were not going to be resolved in Washington.  They have not been; they will not be.

There is anger building again across the country.  The economic crisis continues to take its toll in countless communities and homes. Jobs are still being lost, many never to be recaptured.  The Manhattan mosque debacle is but one more indication that the nativist epidemic has spread and continues to spread far and wide, engulfing immigrants, refugees, people of color, and believers outside the still-dominant culture.  Spineless “leaders” in such circumstances are of no value.  With the bigots they enable by their silence, they should themselves join the ranks of the politically unemployed.

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