By: Amy Lutz
As the midterm elections grow closer by the day, the political climate in the United States grows more and more volatile. Just when I thought that another issue could not top the controversy of health care or illegal immigration, I was proven wrong. This time, a political firestorm is raging over something much more specific, the so called “Ground Zero Mosque.” Before I start, let me be clear, this debate is not about freedom of religion or the right of Muslims to practice as the left likes to claim. I don’t intend to attack the Muslim religion itself, rather, it’s far more prudent to focus on this specific situation; this specific mosque. The planned “Cordoba House” mosque set to be opened on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 has been touted by the left as a symbolic step to religious tolerance and open discussions between Muslims and those of other faiths. As usual, the left has glossed over the darker aspects of this mosque, such as a radical Imam or insensitive dedication date, in favor of the broadest form of political correctness. This sort of one sided political correctness taken up by the modern left has recently given us a dropped case against the Black Panthers and the suspension of five high school students for wearing the flag on their shirts on a holiday that is barely celebrated in Mexico. Now, this same sort of political correctness, often falsely labeled as “tolerance,” has shown this radical administration’s true colors in their treatment of religious freedom. Let’s be honest, the government has often done its best to halt Christian practices in the public sphere such as forbidding the display of the Ten Commandments or suspending students because they bring Rosary beads to school, and a double standard is certainly emerging when it comes to the treatment of the Muslim religion. I am not saying that Muslims do not have a right to practice their religion or build places of worship, because they certainly do, like all other faiths. Though, tolerance of other faiths is not a limitless umbrella that covers every organization that claims to be religious in nature. Would the left really like a branch of the Westboro Baptist Church, headed by the radical Fred Phelps who enjoys protesting military funerals, to be built near Ground Zero (or anywhere else for that matter)? The answer is obviously no. Then why should we accept the potential radical roots of the Cordoba Initiative which is sponsoring this Mosque? Yet, again and again, the left has argued that this is simply about religious freedom and tolerance and that the mosque’s opposition simply dislikes people who follow different, non-Christian, faiths. Let me be clear to those on the left: This argument is not about religious freedom. I am an enormous supporter of Freedom of Religion and I still believe that it should cover all religions, including Islam. Opponents of the Cordoba House are not necessarily arguing that A mosque should not be built 500 feet from ground zero, rather, the argument should be solely focused on why THIS mosque should not be built in that location.

 

I suppose the first question to ask is, why build this mosque in this location? There are numerous other mosques in the vicinity and the likely Imam of the Cordoba House, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has been the Imam of another mosque 12 blocks away from Ground Zero for 27 years (according to the Cordoba Initiative website). It is not like there is a mosque desert in New York; I’m pretty sure they are covered on the Muslim worship front. The Cordoba Initiative and its supporters claim that this mosque will be an experience in “bridge-building” and that it will spark peaceful interfaith dialogue. If so, why did they choose to build it in the one place that would cause the most controversy? Is there not a better way to build bridges? This proposed mosque has done nothing but pull people apart, and as usual, President Obama, by publically commenting on it in his usual roundabout way, has only exacerbated the problem. To truly understand the goal of this mosque, it is important to first understand the meaning behind its proposed name, “Cordoba House.” Many people claim, including the Cordoba Initiative website, that it represents the time when Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived peacefully together in Cordoba, Spain. Sound great, huh? Too bad that version of the story is not entirely accurate. In 711, the city of Cordoba, Spain was conquered by Muslim soldiers and many of the citizens of Cordoba were killed in the process. The original Cordoba Mosque was built after the conquest on the ruins of a Christian cathedral. After the Muslims took over Cordoba, they gave non-Muslims the status of a second class “dhimmi” and forced them to pay a special tax. In the end, non-Muslims were given only three choices. They could accept the “dhimmitude” by paying the tax and living as second class citizens, convert to Islam, or be eliminated. How is this symbol of peace and equality? The part that disturbs me the most is the eerie similarity between the original Cordoba Mosque’s location on a razed Christian cathedral and the modern mosque’s proximity to Ground Zero. Cordoba symbolizes conquest and the subordination of non-Muslims if you look at the historical context, and this is not a theme that I want anywhere near Ground Zero. I am not saying that this is the way all Muslims feel because many Muslims are more peaceful, but the Cordoba Initiative’s stance has become clear through not only its name, but also in the words of its founder, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

 

On September 30, 2001, during an interview with 60 Minutes, Feisal Abdul Rauf made the following statement, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” When asked how he considered the U.S. an accessory, he replied, “Because we have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama Bin Laden is made in the USA.” Although the Imam claims that he was simply referring to the fact that the CIA had formerly funded Bin Laden before he was radically active, his message is still chilling. A lack of sensitivity is evident in his character judging by making such comments so soon after 9/11 and also in the act of building such a mosque near Ground Zero with a dedication date of 9/11/11. The National Review responded to his comments, saying, “While he cannot quite bring himself to blame the terrorists for being terrorists, he finds it easy to blame the United States for being a victim of terrorism.” Feisal Abdul Rauf has made public statements condemning the act of terrorism, yet has never been able to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization. When asked about the subject, he simply gave a circular answer about his stance against terrorism without acknowledging that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Although the likely Imam seems to distance himself from suicide bombings, Al Qaeda, and other forms of terrorism, I do not believe that he is truly a moderate and sensitive to the feelings of all Americans who lost 3000 people on 9/11. This is especially evident in his choice to open the mosque on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He claims that it is the beginning of new relations between Muslims and Westerners, but why not dedicate it on another day? September 11th will forever be a solemn scar on our history and Ground Zero has become almost a sacred location. To use 9/11 and Ground Zero for a political statement is horrendous.

 

The case of the Cordoba House once again reveals the left’s attempt to misdirect an argument to tolerance in order to ignore the holes in their own argument. This case is not about tolerance, or freedom of religion as the President likes to claim, in any way. As a side note, the left often likes to point out that there is supposedly a mosque in the Pentagon and that no one has come out against that. Unfortunately for them, there is not a mosque in the Pentagon (it is simply a nondenominational chapel) and if there was, as long as it does not have radical roots, I have no problem with it. Again, it’s not about A mosque being built, it is about THIS mosque being built in this location at this time. Had the situation been the same but involving Jews or Christians instead of Muslims, my position would be the same. Yet, the political correctness has spiraled out of control on the left. They are so afraid to offend anyone; many have become glorified people pleasers. The left has gone from being tolerant to ignorant and unable to say anything negative about anyone who has even visited the Middle East. This is especially evident in Attorney General Holder’s refusal to admit that radical Islamic terrorists actually exist. It is time for the left to start taking a stand on their issues. This infinitely broadminded “tolerance” has everyone walking on eggshells. Although most American Muslims are moderate and peaceful, some are not and it is important to acknowledge that for our own safety just like it is important to acknowledge that Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church do not represent true Christianity. There are good Muslims and bad Muslims, just like there are good and bad Christians or members of any other group. Tolerance does not mean the refusal to differentiate between the two. In the case of the Cordoba Mosque, it is important to look at the negatives and positives of the situation and weigh them. In my opinion, the construction of this mosque is fantastically insensitive to the victims of 9/11 and I will not stand by it. In this issue, and most issues of “tolerance” and political correctness, the left has polarized the argument. From their position, they see the right as xenophobic and disgusted with people different from us. On the other side, the left is so accommodating to people who are different that they can no longer take a stand on what is right and wrong. Of course, it is important to be tolerant of people who are different than us; diversity is often what makes us great, but it is still important to differentiate. The out of control political correctness that plagues our political debates needs to stop if we ever plan on making any progress in anything.
 
 
By: Amy Lutz
   Following the grand tradition of only inviting left-leaning speakers, the GIC welcomed Tim Wise to speak on the evils of racism last week. Pegged as an “anti-racism” speaker, Wise ranted for an hour on why it is important to recognize racism for what it is and take the responsibility to stop it when it presents itself. In the words of Wise’s ideological companion, President Obama, “let me be clear,” I do not condone racism in any way and I support SLU’s efforts to solve such problems when they arise, but inviting Tim Wise to speak as an “anti-racism” speaker is not the solution. For an hour, Wise spun a narrative painting small government loving conservatives as racists and lovers of the 4th of July as ignorant. At a school that prides itself on promoting “inclusion,” I felt, as a conservative, nothing but excluded. Using Wise’s comments as a standard of reality, I am an ignorant, racist, white person who knows nothing about the country I love.
Throughout his speech, Tim Wise’s favorite target was the Tea Party. Actually, his real target was all conservatives, but he just grouped all right-thinking people together and slapped on the label “tea partier.” Wise insinuated that all people who believe it’s time to “take our country back” are 70 years old and believe that the President was born in Kenya. Unfortunately for Mr. Wise, the “birther” rumor was started by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the demographics of the Tea Party run parallel to the demographics of the entire country. During the 2008 campaign, Phil J. Berg, a lawyer acting on behalf of Clinton, filed Berg v. Obama, in which he claimed that the current president was not eligible to take office because he is not a “natural born citizen” (http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2668306447838171173&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr).  Although there are birthers in the Tea Party, the movement was started by a liberal politician as a campaign strategy and has since spread to influence minute portions of many diverse groups. Also, according to a recent Gallup poll, the Tea Party is fairly representative of America as a whole. Only 21% of the Tea Party is over 65, as compared to 20% of all U.S. adults.  Twenty-nine percent of Tea Partiers and 27% of U.S. adults are between 50 and 64. The rest of the demographical comparisons between the Tea Party and America as a whole are just as similar and can be viewed at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181/tea-partiers-fairly-mainstream-demographics.aspx. Tim Wise’s claim that the average Tea Partier is a 70-year-old white man is a stereotype, and one from which he based many of his arguments. If nothing else, Wise was certainly not the most logical speaker I have heard. In addition to stereotyping a large group of people (which, by the way, is not a good example to set from an “anti-racism” speaker), Wise also used extreme quotes from two conservative commentators, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and applied those ideas to the entire conservative movement. For Mr. Wise’s information, the comments of two men cannot be taken as representative of an entire movement.
In another illogical move, Tim Wise attacked the conservative catch phrase “we want our country back.” Any rational thinker would know that this phrase is in reference to a desire to return to small-government principles. Apparently, Wise believes that conservatives want to take our country back to a specific time. This is perhaps one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Even if conservatives wanted to “take the country back” to 1957, 1789, or any other year, it is again, in reference to the principles of the time, not the literal conditions. I got the impression that Wise assumes people who want to “take the country back” seek a complete restoration of society from a specific year in the past. Depending on the “year,” Wise assumes that conservatives want to see the return of slavery, racial segregation, or legal inequality. Again, this is absurd. I have heard many people who share my views speak of a desire to “return” to principles of small government, but never have I heard of a yen for the return of slavery. Although, returning to principles of small government seems like a pure pursuit, according to Tim Wise, it is really a desire to oppress minorities. According to Wise, it is impossible to detach small government rhetoric from racism because “people did not have a problem with big government until minorities were given benefits.” Excuse me? If I heard Wise correctly, because I claim to be a small-government conservative, I am a racist and seek to strip minorities of any sort of legal benefit. I am not sure I see the correlation between a political view on the size of government and racism. Statements like these did a great job at making me feel excluded at Tim Wise’s speech. It was not easy to agree with someone who calls your political ideology “racist,” especially when the same person is touted as being “anti-racist.”
Perhaps the greatest complaint I had against Tim Wise was his views on patriotism and the 4th of July. According to Wise, “we love to live in the past as long as the past feels good,” and this includes celebrating Independence Day. Yes, although, there is a grain of truth in his statement, the love Americans have for our country goes much deeper, especially on the 4th of July. Patriotic Americans love the country for her triumphs and for her faults. We love the principles of limited government, freedom, and hard work that constitute the American Dream, but we also remember the scars. In this country, nothing causes an American’s heart to swell more than overcoming adversity. Think the American Revolution or 1980 Miracle on Ice. We even look to our own failures as examples of overcoming the adversity of our own faults. Although slavery was a horrific time in our nation, we feel pride in the successes of the Abolitionist and, later, Civil Rights movements, and seek to overcome any inequality that still remains. This same principle is evident literally in our Constitution. It is generally agreed that Prohibition was not the greatest idea, and; therefore, it was eventually repealed. Although the 18th Amendment is not longer in use, it is still present in the Constitution. The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, but it did not erase it from our memory. According to Tim Wise, patriotic Americans only respect our history because it “feels good,” but I disagree. Real patriotic Americans love our country, flaws and all. Unfortunately, Wise does not seem to agree with this position. Honestly, I sometimes got the impression that he was disgusted with the nation in which we live. Wise could not resist making a comment on one of the darkest times in our nation, 9/11 when he said that “banks have done more harm than the 9/11 attacks.” Although Wise was using this example to attack the banks in this country, it still came across as insensitive to an event which resulted in the deaths of 3000 people.
        Personally, I have no preference if far-left speakers are invited to present on campus; I have the choice whether I want to attend or not. What I do have a problem with is while liberal speakers such as Tim Wise are allowed to speak; right leaning activists such as David Horowitz are specifically banned. A year ago, the administration barred conservative speaker David Horowitz from giving a speech entitled "An Evening with David Horowitz: Islamo-Fascism Awareness and Civil Rights" because they “expressed concern that the program in its current form could be viewed as attacking another faith and seeking to cause derision on campus” and requested a counter-speaker. The assertion that Horowitz would have “attacked another faith” and “caused derision” is absurd. His speech was not to be one of over-generalization like Tim Wise’s speech. Horowitz’s critiques are more focused on Islamic extremism as opposed to Muslims in general. Tim Wise, on the other hand, directed broad attacks at conservatives and tea partiers by citing very specific, extreme examples. Also, where was the Wise’s counter-speaker? Although his views are practically opposite those of Horowitz, Wise cannot certainly be described as less controversial, and thus, according to the restrictions set on his conservative counterpart, should have been given an opposing opinion to counter his statements. Not surprisingly, a conservative opinion was nowhere to be found. I am not asking for a ban on speaker with any opinions that differ from mine, nor am I asking SLU to fill a “quota” of conservative speakers. All I ask if for equal treatment for speakers of all political ideologies, and at a school that prides itself on a tough stance against prejudice and inequality, that should not be too much to ask.
 
 
By: Amy Lutz
On February 19, 2009, on CNBC, Rick Santelli launched what has now come to be known as the “rant that launched a thousand protests.”(1) “This is America!” exclaimed Santelli to a passionate crowd on the floor of Chicago’s futures exchange. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand. (Traders boo) President Obama, are you listening? … We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan- I’m going to start organizing.” And as the traders on the floor burst into raucous applause and shouts, the Tea Party was born. Although a few smaller gatherings had been held in the weeks before Santelli’s outburst, the CNBC correspondent served as the spark for the raging wildfire that is now know as the Tea Party.

The Tea Party emerged as a product of spontaneous combustion. Rick Santelli’s outburst created a nationwide, grassroots phenomenon that has fascinated conservatives and liberals alike. Although some like to label political figures such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin the “leaders” of the movement, the Tea Party has no actual national leader. It is important to note that this new phenomenon is a “movement,” not simply a group of people. Dozens of different groups of people with different, yet similar, views make up the Tea Party movement. Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express are two examples of differing groups caught under the umbrella of the movement. There is no unifying web site or hierarchy of authority for the entire Tea Party. All of the Tea Party groups advocate for small government and fiscal responsibility, but even among these similar groups, there can be radically differing opinions. For example, this past summer, the former president to the Tea Party Express, Mark Williams, was removed from his position after labeling President Obama as an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” and posting a blog depicting a satirical letter from “we coloreds” (former slaves) to Abraham Lincoln. (2) Also, because the Tea Party Express was hesitant to eject Williams, the entire organization was severed from the Tea Party Federation, which is a collection of 85 different Tea Party groups. This event makes the clear case that the Tea Party is a movement filled with differing opinions and groups, and not a single organization. The offensive comments of one man should in no way reflect poorly upon the entire movement. In fact, the Tea Party Federation’s ejection of Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express should shine a positive light upon the Tea Party. The Tea Party Federation saw a clear example of extremely prejudiced comments and rooted out the source.

Despite the fact that the Tea Party does not have a single leader, this does not stop its opponents from labeling certain conservatives and libertarians such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, “leaders” of the Tea Party movement. Although their views may align with the movement, their views and comments (almost always taken out of context) should not represent the views of millions of people. The first, and perhaps most cited, “leader” of the Tea Party is Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, it is very difficult to argue that the way Sarah Palin is treated in the media is downright disgusting. During the 2008 campaign, the mainstream media did its best to smear and destroy Palin in every way possible. The attacks became so frequent that comments made by the impeccable Sarah Palin impersonator, Tina Fey (who was actually quite hilarious) were cited as comments made by the real Sarah Palin. Because of this, most people still assume that “I can see Russia from my house,” actually came from Sarah Palin instead of Tina Fey, from whom the comment really originated. I could spend hours breaking down every comment Palin has made, but to stick with the Tea Party theme, I’ll focus on a comment made by the former governor which has caused her to be attacked for apparently “condoning violence.” (3) This past spring, Palin tweeted “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead- RELOAD!” and was subsequently harassed by democratic lawmakers. Is this really the left’s best evidence of “violence” from the Tea Party? Before responding to this, let me first stop laughing hysterically. How is this violent? Is it because she used the word “reload”? If so, America, our republic is over. Prepare yourself for a new regime of over-excessive political correctness.

In addition to the attacks on Sarah Palin, a firestorm has perpetually raged against political commentator Glenn Beck. Obviously Glenn Beck is over the top and seems to make an offhanded, controversial comment every few months. Although he has absolutely nothing to do with the Tea Party (he actually started the 9/12 Project), Beck is perpetually grouped with the movement as a way of reducing their credibility. The most controversial comment Glenn Beck made over a year ago occurred when he called President Obama a “racist.” (4) He made this comment in response to President Obama’s labeling of his own grandmother as a “typical white person;” a comment that has not been clarified, by the way (5). Recently, Beck clarified his statement by stating: “I have a big fat mouth sometimes and I say things, and that’s not the way people should behave.” He went on to explain that he mistook the president’s position on liberation theology as racism. Yes, the statement Beck made was an over-exaggeration, but he has since revised it and one controversial statement by a political figure who is not officially tied to the Tea Party should not destroy the reputation of the entire movement.

As the Tea Party movement has swelled in the past year, so have the cries of racism. This seems to be the most common charge against the Tea Party, but little, if any, proof has been brought forth to back this claim up. Democrats like to claim that the n word was hurled at John Lewis after the heath care vote as he walked with Nancy Pelosi and other congressmen. Even though there were thousands of people with cell phones and cameras around the group as they walked arrogantly through the crowd, mocking Civil Rights leaders, no proof has ever been brought forward. Blogger Andrew Breitbart has even offered $10,000 to anyone who can prove that these claims are true. (6) No one has stepped forward to claim the reward. Please, opponents of the Tea Party, stop using “racist” to describe the movement (and to describe all opponents of the president as well). Simply throwing out the word “racism” constantly with nothing to back it up does nothing more than water down the word and dilute the cases of true racism.

In addition to being labeled as racist, Tea Partiers are constantly attacked for being “violent” as well. This claim is even less believable than that of racism. Again, I will ask, where is the proof? Sarah Palin using the word “reload” is not violence. Disagreeing with the president’s policies is not violence. You want an example of violence? How about the beating of Kenneth Gladney by SEIU thugs outside a Russ Carnahan event last year? (7) In August 2009, Kenneth Gladney, and African American man was selling “Don’t Tread on Me” flags outside a Russ Carnahan event and was approached by several SEIU thugs and violently questioned about what he was doing there. One SEUI member reportedly asked: “Why is an n-word like you handing out these flags?” The situation turned worse when Gladney was beaten by the SEIU thugs and eventually taken to the hospital. Six men were arrested later that night and the video of the beating is currently streaming on YouTube. Funny thing about that; the men who were arrested were not Tea Partiers. Imagine that! For all the claims of violence against the Tea Party, I would assume that every act of violence perpetrated in this country came from a Tea Party member. Actually, the men who committed the assault were members of the left leaning union, SEIU. In addition to halting the cries of racism, please stop using “violence” as just another buzzword. If you want to call the Tea Party either racist or violent, at least have evidence to back it up.

No matter what the left does to smear the Tea Party, there is no doubt that the conservative revival that has helped propel the Tea Party movement will have an enormous impact on the elections this November. America in general has a love/hate relationship with the Tea Party. Personally, I have no preference where anyone stands on the Tea Party. What I do have a problem with is smearing the entire movement with inaccuracies and insulting buzzwords like “racist” and “violent.” Here is a lesson to the left: before you try to destroy a movement that encompasses millions of people, check your info. Take a lesson from your Democratic counterpart, former Congressman Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

 

(1)   http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/cnbcs-santelli-incites-traders-in-chicago-calls-for-a-tea-par/1465651/

(2)   http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2010/07/18/2010-07-18_tea_party_express_leader_mark_williams_expelled_over_colored_people_letter.html

(3)   http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20001170-503544.html

(4)   http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/29/beck-amends-obama-racist-comment-questions-belief-collective-salvation/

(5)   http://politics.usnews.com/news/blogs/news-desk/2008/3/21/obama-typical-white-person-comment-delights-clinton-aides.html

(6)   http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2010/03/26/breitbart-offers-10k-reward-for-proof-that-n-word-was-hurled-at-john-lewis/

(7)  http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/eye_witness_to_st_louis_scuffl.asp