Just ask Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. He writes, magnanimously and patronizingly, that most of those who oppose building an Islamic center and mosque in a building damaged in the attacks of 9/11 aren’t “bigots”; they’re merely ‘fraidy cats in the long tradition of “patriots [who fear] that newcomers don’t share their values, don’t believe in democracy, and may harm innocent Americans.”
These petrified patriots are just like their 19th and 20th century forebears who were terrified that gin-swilling Irish Catholics would snatch good Protestant babies out of their prams for a clandestine dip in the baptismal font. Today’s sissified citizens trace their ancestry to the good people who hid their daughters in fear of polygamist Mormons on the hunt for fresh woman-flesh. Or so says Kristof, who acknowledges that “[h]istorically, unreal suspicions were sometimes rooted in genuine and significant differences. Many new Catholic immigrants lacked experience in democracy. Mormons were engaged in polygamy.” Then, Kristof delivers his punch line: “And today some extremist Muslims do plot to blow up planes, and Islam has real problems to work out about the rights of women.”
Is it just me, or is Kristof’s equation of 1) unfamiliarity with democracy and 2) the practice of bigamy with 3) mass murder just a little off the mark? Think about it: “Some” Catholic immigrants needed to adjust to a new form of government. Early Mormons had eccentric ideas about marriage. And today, Muslim extremists fly planes into buildings and kill their teenaged daughters for wearing blue jeans. Gee, I sure see the similarity among these put-upon groups.
His tortured analogy breaks down further when he writes:
Followers of these movements against Irish, Germans, Italians, Chinese and other immigrants were mostly decent, well-meaning people trying to protect their country.…Most Americans stayed on the sidelines during these spasms of bigotry, and only a small number of hoodlums killed or tormented Catholics, Mormons or others.
I can’t recall any incidents of Moslems being “killed” or “tormented” by American “hoodlums” because of the controversy over the cultural center/mosque. Can you? Do you, like me, find it offensive that Kristof insinuates that “most Americans…on the sidelines” of the debate about the proposed Islamic center are in reality enabling bad guys who would do harm to followers of Mohammed?
If you don’t, you should.