I've avoided writing about the discussions, debates and diatribes going on not just in New York City but across the country and in places around the world about Park51. I try and get in a half hour of treadmill or stationary bike or power walking on an elevated track every work day morning and the plasma screens in the fitness center are all on maxvol almost exclusively on Fox News. I'm not a fan, you may have gleaned that if you've been here before, but leben und leben lassen but sometimes....
One of the things I've noticed about America in our Post 9/11 incarnation is silence has been outlawed in all public places. I've spent a fair amount of time in recent years in doctor's offices, emergency rooms or in the hospital as a patient, places where for years a whisper was a scream, but no more. Now the news readers and cheerleaders, the Big Heads, on television are everywhere and always on even when they have nothing to say. If you're looking for a moment to yourself, the USA is no longer the country to have it. Around the dial, there's more noise than news.
Surfing the dial at home, I almost snap the remote in half skipping over sanctimonious $hitheads like Keith O and his ilk but in the mornings I find myself staring slack-jawed and dull eyed at what I assume are repeats of the previous evening's Bill O'Reilly broadcasts, complete with 'Pinheads or Patriots' a delightful couple of minutes where those with whom he disagrees are savaged and mocked while those he deigns to favor are elevated to Olympian heights.
It wasn't that long ago that Billy O. and his shrew crew, along with (at one time) one of my favorite socially aware comedians, Dennis Miller, climbed into the Andrew Breitbart clown car about the racism of Shirley Sherrod undeterred by the absence of accuracy or veracity. And then, when shown to be incorrect, simply moved on to the next roadkill with hair in the news cycle (think anchor babies) without a word of correction or apology to Ms.Sherrod or anyone else harmed by their behavior.
Fox claims to be fair and balanced, a goal towards which every news organization should strive, but F-A-I-R can too easily become F-E-A-R and when viewers self-select one source of information constantly, often the sense of perspective, the balance of viewpoints, gets obscured by ideologues and others. If all you eat is vanilla ice cream, what's your reaction when strawberry happens? And believe me my brother and my sister, strawberry happens.
All of which brings me to where I am now on Park51-and if you're not familiar with that name it's because you're calling it the Mosque at Ground Zero, a turn of phrase that summons memories which make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Except, and excuse me for pointing this out (product of a liberal education that I am (hiss!)), it's NOT a mosque, it's a prayer room in a community center, much like the pocket chapel in the hospital around the corner from my house and it's NOT at Ground Zero.
And spare me the 'when Saudi Arabia lets construction on a cathedral begin in Riyadh, blah, blah, blah' argument because the pinko commie ba$tards who wrote our Bill of Rights just had to play the religion card right there in the First Amendment. And it's those first ten amendments that make us the greatest country on earth (and make me wonder what happened to all the smart people who used to be here instead of the muttonheads we've got now).
There are a thousand nuances in all the words on sacred ground, religious freedom, do the terrorists win and millions of sets of feelings, attitudes and perceptions that all need to be acknowledged, listened to, sorted out and acted upon because that's how we roll in the land of the (still) free and we shouldn't need Russell Simmons to tell us that, but I'm glad he did and I cannot believe I'm typing something nice about him, but when he's right, we're all right, but only if we learn to listen to one another. Saying you're fair isn't enough, you have to be fair-we count on you to always remember that, because words are more than consonants and vowels, they're ideas and ideals.