by Patrick Appel
Bernstein says the Park 51 controversy doesn't matter:
It's not going to affect elections, it's not substantively important, and to the extent it's symbolically important...well, let's just say it's not symbolically important as a stand-alone issue in any significant way (at best, it's what Kevin Drum says, one straw -- so shouldn't we pay more attention to all that other straw?). I'm sorry to be a stick in the mud about it, but it just isn't actually a big story no matter how much it gets hyped. Okay?
I think the Republicans completely repudiating Bush's efforts to differentiate Islam from Islamism is significant. I think Palin's success in bringing another poisonous meme to the eruption point is significant. I think that waves of hysterical demagoguery that hit fever pitch are significant. And I think that, as with torture, when it comes to defense of civil liberties leaders have to be better than the rest of us, because majorities will sell those liberties without a twitch for a modicum of relief from rage or fear. When one of our two major parties goes all out demonizing an entire religion and works assiduously to interfere with a local government's approval of a religious institution to be built on private property, that's dangerous.
I'm not saying that anti-Muslim bigotry isn't important; I absolutely think it is. I guess I don't see this particular kerfuffle as nearly as much of a turning point, or whatever, as some of you do. I don't know...Yes, George W. Bush said some good things about tolerance and all in 2001-2002, but I think that there was quite a bit of bigoted stuff coming from the usual suspects even back then, and certainly by mid-decade. IIRC, Muslims became a solid Dem voting block by 2006, maybe by 2004 (but not in 2000), in large part because one party (Bush notwithstanding) was far more likely to use conflate Islam and terrorism a whole lot more than the other was. Someone can check my memory on that, but at any rate, I just don't see this event as looming very large within the general story of civil rights and civil liberties. I mean, we've basically had conservatives saying for the last couple of years that all Muslims should be tortured and that American Muslims shouldn't have any Constitutional protections within the criminal justice system; is this really a significant step after that?
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