by Conor Friedersdorf
Over the weekend, I spoke with two people whose take on the Park51 mosque and community center, quite apart from the merits of their respective positions, can only be described as aggrieved. One argued that the mosque should be moved farther from Ground Zero, the other that a location two blocks removed presents no problem. But their upset sprang from a deeper place: a conviction, expressed more emotionally than anything, that their insights aren’t shared or even respected by those in “the other America.”
Said the man, a wealthy fifty-something executive, “Seventy percent sees what is wrong with this, yet we’re called bigots! If the people in charge don’t change their cosmopolitan attitudes we’re going to lose this country.”
The woman, a top tier business school student in her late twenties, insisted that if demagogues manage to mess up even this, “I’m seriously moving abroad. Ever since 9/11 I just don’t know what’s wrong with people.”
These laments aren’t exactly surprising.
The right generally lashes out by asserting that its ideological opponents are out of touch elites, disconnected from traditional American values and common sense. More common on the left is for aggrieved participants in the national debate to bemoan what they regard as the perversion of values being perpetrated. Opponents are cast as pawns being manipulated into irrational or even bigoted positions by powerful interests who benefit from the world that results.