Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Feel" This

Everything that can been written about the Park51 community center controversy has already been written, so I'll keep this short. I'm most interested not in the empty shouts of offense by the right - I've dealt with that in this space before and will not do so again. What's interesting to me is how otherwise reasonable people like Howard Dean could oppose the community center, as Greenwald notes. Greenwald received a letter from Dean in which he says the following:
My argument is simple. This Center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are "justified" or not.
And my response is this - why should we give a damn about someone's feelings if their feelings are wrong? Or as the more eloquent Greenwald puts it:
The central question raised by this controversy is the same one raised by countless similar controversies throughout American history: whether the irrational fears and prejudices of the majority should be honored and validated or emphatically confronted.
I described the bigotry of Park51's opponents as understandable in my previous column on the subject, but understandable bigotry is still bigotry and still wrong.

It's time that we stopped worshipping at the altar of "feelings," as if the fact that someone feels something makes their point of view legitimate. I don't care what people feel - if their feelings are not backed up by rational observations and conclusions, they're meaningless. When the feeling in question is based on a premise that is patently untrue - in this case, the idea that Muslims, as a group, attacked the U.S. on 9/11 - I see no reason why I should respect those feelings. Mosque opponents are wrong, and they should get over it on their own damn time and not make the rest of the sane world bow to their almighty "feelings."

What's truly odd is that conservatives are usually the ones making that argument. They're the ones usually saying, for example, that someone who "feels" racism is wrong because the statements in question are not intended as racist. (It's a misuse of the argument because the feeling in question is based on a real premise - that is, minorities are subjected to some pretty racist shit. And there are frequently some elements of ostensibly "non-racist" statements that have been used as racist statements in the past. So it's usually a lot more reasonable. But this is all beside the point, thus the parentheses.) Since when did conservatives start believing that people's feelings are sacrosanct and that we should all fall over backwards not to hurt anyone else's?

Oh, that's right - when they can tell someone else to inconvenience themselves at the service of their own feelings.

Truth is, feelings don't matter. The facts matter. We've been reversing this for too long.

In other news:

- The last combat troops pulled out of Iraq today. Not sure if that really changes a whole lot, but it's a milestone to be happy about.

- Interesting church-state case out of the 10th Circuit today - memorial crosses along the side of the road are unconstitutional if erected by the government, in this case the Utah State Highway Patrol. I'm usually a die-hard separationist, but I'm not sure I agree with the court here. Seems to me like a memorial cross serves a legitimate secular purpose as required by the Lemon test - that purpose being memorializing a passed trooper. If there was a trooper who wasn't Christian who was memorialized in such a manner, those challenging the crosses might have a point though - at that point, the cross becomes primarily a religious symbol since it'd be a ridiculously inappropriate memorial.

- In case you haven't heard, Pakistan is drowning. Here are some ways to help the victims. Though some Pakistanis aren't donating because the government sucks and is corrupt. Oh, and shame on the URJ for not having any links on its site. They did well for the Haiti disaster - why go silent now?Update: The URJ spokesperson sent me a nice e-mail today - they replied promptly - and noted that they weren't doing direct aid because they didn't have the resources to get directly involved in Pakistan. They are, however, collecting money for distribution to aid orgs that they trust. That's for the best - no sense in wasting money creating infrastructure when you could use someone else's existing infrastructure to spend that money helping people. It's more efficient that way.

- There are so many reasons to love this TMBG appearance on Letterman from 1990. Is it how Letterman refers to their album as "The" Flood? Or how gloriously nerdy Flansburgh looks next to the relatively hip Linnell? Or... well, it's awesome either way.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Not sure whether you saw my retweet of the 10th circuit decision, but I too am inclined to disagree with the court here. It's freedom *of* religion, not freedom *from* religion. Are churches/synagogues/mosques/etc. now required to be a certain distance from public highways so that atheist drivers won't be forced to see them? It's not as if the memorials are even necessarily *constructed* by the state (is it? Didn't see in the article). Even if they are, it doesn't really matter. Like you say, as long as they are memorials appropriate to the religious beliefs of the fallen and approved by their families, what's the issue?

Oh, and this interminable 9/11 mosque thing is really getting ridiculous.