Recent Memory, Case File #00001: The Ground Zero Mosque

By Keith Gatchel

And, now, a monthly look back at what had made the news over the past 5 to 20 years, and if it still matters to this day.

What was news?
The Ground Zero Mosque.

How was this news?
In the summer of 2010, with the United States knee-deep into Obama’s presidency, the Democrats held a super-majority over the House and Senate. The mid-term elections appeared up ahead like the start of junior high: either stick with your old friends who still think girls have cooties or make new ones that might smoke in the bathroom. In both cases, you’re now all showering together. The GOP needed to downplay, if not entirely ignore, eight previous years of the Bush Administration that lead to an unjustified war, an economic recession, a lazy response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush’s pretzel accident, the term "freedom fries," Sarah Palin and Shrek.

As timing would have it, a chance at rebranding came as two cosplayers of history began to emerge: 9/11 movies and The Tea Party. Yes, Democrats use 9/11 to their advantage as well, Uncle Gerry. But, the GOP has the market pretty much cornered. Almost nine years had passed since the tragedy (17 for those who really never forget), and 9/11 had been what hawks could rally around.

True, no one wants a tragedy, especially one that leads up to a war. But, this was about the spirit of 2001, not 2003, when half of America wanted to gear up against the enemy while the Gore voters said under their breath, "Yeah, I guess, if they did it..." The country had felt united then, in that conservatives felt they were being united with, and it’s what felt right. Plus, with apologizes to The Captain and/or Tennille, maybe more so than love, enemies will keep us together. One congressional election cycle was enough time to play underdogs to those with the memory of actual puppies while somehow feeling oppressed being either/entirely white, Christian, or a country music fan. To them, the Hellfire Club had invaded the X-Mansion. It was now their turn.

What went down?
At the start to the summer blockbuster movie season, Soho Properties in New York City received permission to build Park51, or what would have been called The Cordoba House. But pundits named it the Ground Zero Mosque. No three words had been as ready for the subject line of your aunt’s forwarded email since "gay Jesus play." It was a cause they could get behind (again). Fortunately, the internet is fast, and just as quickly as it started, articles debunked them with the fact that "No, it’s not at Ground Zero" and "It’s a community center with a mosque in it."

Containing a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, library, day-care facility, restaurant and cooking school, the plan was basically to make a YMCA by some guys normally seen as the villain in True Lies. But, that didn’t stop some conservatives from making attack ads claiming Park51 as one of many victory mosques. Here was their sweet symbolic validation of the Sharia oppression they were under, filling their rage in the downtime before the annual War On Christmas, but after Fashion Week. This was what the emerging Tea Party needed—an anchor-issue that wasn’t racist, but played well if you were. They could say they weren’t anti-muslim, but still say that it didn’t feel right, like how most of us feel about hot dogs. Protesters came out like cicadas with seventeen year old boners full of indignation.

Technically, this means you're moving Ground Zero closer to it.

Technically, this means you're moving Ground Zero closer to it.

What's up with it now?
It’s now condos made for millionaires. But, not because of the controversy, which didn’t help. It’s just a bitch trying to build anything in New York City. Also, after their spokesman left, their new one got flak for making anti-homosexual remarks (look, right wing pundits, you have one thing in common). But, the 2010 mid-terms are done, so they did what it set out to do.  

Does it still matter?
More than anything, it was the first major moment since 9/11 when the Muslim community was officially singled out with a tangible agenda (as false as it was) where history could be cited (as false as that was as well). And that fear gains traction. For once, it would have been nice for the Muslim community to get coverage for helping downtown NYC instead of being labeled as a sleeper cell, and for conservatives to embrace that. No one opens a junior college and gets accused of gang recruitment (says a guy who went to junior college). Yes, a mosque would have been in it. But, all places have sanctuaries. Hospitals have chapels. Your office has a break room. Cartoon Network has Rick and Morty.

True, conservatives claimed that it would be a recruitment tool for Hamas, but there are plenty of mosques already built. And, why build one if you’re going to be conspicuous about it? You could have built an Olive Mediterranean Grill. That probably would recruit me.

And, yes, those same conservatives will be the first to scream "not all Muslims are terrorists." But, isn’t that still lumping them together, just less? When you start your rant against a group saying "Not all," you’re still basically implying most. That’s like saying "Italian mafia" or "sexist Ghostbuster." And, while I have lumped all conservatives together in this article as being white, Christian country music fans (or bluegrass, it all sounds the same), they don’t have to worry about building a church anywhere. Imagine building a megachurch at the Oklahoma City bombing, or, statistically speaking, any land Americans have settled on. Much like a community center with a mosque in it, we all know there’s more to us than just what we believe.

Do we still care?
The article linked up there about the cost to live in the condos, and also here, have 360 views as of this writing. So, no, not really. But, like good real estate, it was about location, location, location. Same goes for those who still have a problem with mosques. Fortunately, there's a bright side if we’re going to use the one example approach: One mosque in Des Plaines, IL, got a settlement of  $580,000 after their ban.

Despite what your religion tells you to eat, we all can agree on some sweet cheddar.