The shenanigans over the mural in Prescott, AZ have gotten all of the bigotry headlines, perhaps because it's so obvious as to be just painful. But I think the business going on in New York right now is more important and more disturbing.
Look at these protests again. They're occurring not in some backwater but in the most cosmopolitan city in America. It's not like New Yorkers have never seen a Muslim before. They probably pass hundreds of Muslims on the way to work every day. And yet, here are some of the things people say against this project:
I don't think that they would build a German cultural center right near Auschwitz. Just because you're looking at what happened to the people that died there. That's all that should be focused on.How is this not bigotry? This buffoon is basically blaming all Muslims for what happened on 9/11 - it's stereotyping and hatred of the outsider at its very worst.
Claiming that a mosque shouldn't be built close to the site of the 9/11 attacks is bigotry, pure and simple. You're taking the responsibility for the attack off the 20 or so dumbshits who hijacked those planes and putting it on all Muslims, and that's just not right.
That having been said, I want to add this. Being a bigot doesn't necessarily make you a bad person - just a flawed one. And we're all flawed. We may not recognize what we feel as bigotry even when it is. The best we can do is recognize that implicit hatred for an outsider group is wrong and rectify it once that feeling is identified within us. The sort of bigotry on display here doesn't remind me of the Klan or the Aryan Nations or something - rather, it reminds me of Bob Hoskins' character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? A cartoon killed his brother, so he misguidedly directs his rage at all cartoons. But "cartoons" didn't kill his brother, a single cartoon did. He's not a bad person (clearly) but he is a bigot. And that's okay - we don't hate or even dislike Eddie Valiant, we just wish he didn't hate cartoons so much because it's clearly irrational. So it is with these New Yorkers who oppose this mosque. We don't dislike these guys - we just wish they didn't hate Muslims so much. "Muslims" in general didn't blow up the WTC - 20 idiot Muslims did.
And that's perhaps what makes this story more important than the hateful bigotry on display in Prescott. While we have trouble identifying with racists like Steve Blair, the New Yorker protestors display the kind of bigotry we could easily imagine falling into ourselves under the right circumstances. We may never turn into Steve Blair, but tragedy and a healthy dose of very human irrationality could easily turn us into the people protesting this mosque. Throw in a group of people that exists outside the mainstream and makes an easy target, and presto. We need to discuss events like the mosque protests - and call them out for what they are - because we know we're susceptible to the same urges. The only thing preventing us from becoming bigots ourselves is consistently telling ourselves that such bigotry is wrong.