The controversy over the planned mosque in lower Manhattan, blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, led me to go back to re-watch Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, the first movie to try deal with the emotional reverberations of that terrible day of loss and suffering.
In that underrated movie, Edward Norton plays (a bit too heavily) a convicted drug dealer in his last day before heading off to a seven-year stint in prison. The brilliance of the set-up is the genuine sadness felt by his friends, his girlfriend and his father — none of whom are morally admirable — for the loss of Norton, who’s likewise a morally flawed human. There’s a subtle and subversive message there that undermines our natural inclination to turn all the 9/11 victims retroactively into angels. The point is simple — even if some of the people who died in the World Trade Center were assholes — and probably there were a fair share — the loss of them remains deeply sad.
And just as importantly, the point is that same urge for moral simplicity is just as wrong when people try to use it now to justify opposing a mosque several blocks away from the WTC (a site further away than at least two strip clubs). Conservatives who oppose government encroachment on religion and property rights are calling on the local bureaucracy to stop the mosque. Even Roger Pilon, a Cato Institute libertarian, got in on the conservative culture-war game, whining, like a 19-year old, newly minted feminist at a liberal arts school, about “sensitivity to the feelings of others.”
Hell, if Ted Olson, whose wife Barbara died on one of the hijacked planes, knows enough not to oppose the mosque, what the fuck is your excuse?
Fuck that. And fuck all of the opportunists and know-nothings going on about a mosque in New York City.
The urge to have an enemy and to believe you are on the right side in a worldwide struggle is a powerful one. You could ask the dead, fundamentalist hijackers about that one. But the mosque will fit in with strip clubs, shoe shine guys, over-priced vendors of crappy Statue of Liberty snow globes, immigrant-run corner stores, Starbucks, gay porn shops and Cuban restaurants extorting $25 a person for brunch. Because that’s the way NYC, and the best of this country, rolls.
So fuck all the “hard-hats” who say they won’t build the mosque, fuck the fat-bellied, privileged-but-whiny Midwesterners who don’t live anywhere near a city that’s likely a future target for fundamentalist crazies, fuck the ratings-craving, intellectually dishonest Fox News network for pushing this shit as if it were a real issue, and fuck all of you all for feeding the Islamic terrorist dogs. From where I’m standing, it looks like you want to hand them recruiting material, just so you’ll have something to bitch about at your next barbecue in suburbia, which will never ever be a target for al Qaeda.
Fuck Obama for not having the courage to come out and say, “Build the damn mosque, show the world how inclusive we are, and let’s get back to real issues.” Fuck Russell Simmons for not having the brains to know that al Qaeda was responsible for the first WTC bombing.
Fuck all the people just want something to hate, and man, is it easy to say that a mosque built on Ground Zero is a slap in the face, when in fact, it’s as God damn American as you are. Fuck you for not seeing that the right-wing is prone to blowing up federal buildings and shooting abortion doctors, channelling the same ideological shit that al Qaeda does.
Fuck all you mosque opponents.
If you were as angry as I am that the Bush administration fucked up finding, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, or you were pissed that the war in Afghanistan wasn’t left to become a quagmire in desert, so that Cheney and Bush could one up Bush’s father, I might give you a pass. But you aren’t. You make excuses for them, since they channeled the same cowboy machismo that gives you a hard-on when you re-watch Top Gun for the 100th time.
And fuck us as a country for not having learned jack-shit after 9/11. To his credit, George Bush did make it clear that he didn’t blame all Muslims — even as his Justice administration managed to make the Muslim community feel like targets, rather than a resource. But what did they call on us to do? Go shopping.
We had the chance to become a better people and a better country and instead we learned how to make better unmanned aircraft that can drop Hellfire missiles on compounds we suspect harbor terrorists, but often just house women and children.
And what about the issues that al Qaeda and its ilk exploits to gain new converts? The Palestinian issue is just as screwed as it’s ever been, in no small part because the government remains perpetually afraid to tell the Israeli rightists to go fuck themselves when the time is right. Kashmir is still screwed, while Somalia remains a nightmare.
There’s a fine saying, “If you want a friend, feed any animal.”
And from what I can tell, the right in this country wants a weird friendship with the movement that led to 9/11, because they keep feeding them. Me, I want to starve those cave-dwelling, fundamentalist monkeys.
To which I can only say, channeling Spike Lee’s hatred/love poem to New York: Fuck all of you and fuck us all. We got the country and discourse we deserve, and the humans incinerated on 9/11 died for nothing, thanks to us.