by Ayelet Waldman
I've been thinking today about mosques in downtown New York. At the breakfast table, I recounted an Onion headline I'd read about the RNC establishment issuing to the city of New York a list of locations in which private religious organizations are permitted to build mosques. Up by Central Park is okay, or Columbia University. My husband, patient as ever with my miserable memory, pointed out that it was not in fact an Onion headline that I was recalling, but an actual honest to goodness news story about the ever-charming and reasonable Newt Gingrich, who appears to be suffering from the delusion that he's been appointed to the NYC zoning board. This morning (Tuesday), the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on whether the project--a community center with a mosque--can proceed as planned, in downtown Manhattan.
This spring, through a complicated series of events, I found myself a participant in the Army War College's National Security Seminar at the Carlisle Barracks in Harrisburg, PA. The War College offers a year-long graduate program to select senior officers--Colonels and Lt. Colonels--primarily from the Army, but with a smattering of individuals from the other branches, from other countries, and from civilian organizations like the state department and the NSA. The goal is to take students who have shown themselves to be uniquely skilled, who have mastered the tactical and operational demands of their jobs, and to offer a bridge toward more strategic thinking. At the end of the year, the seminar is opened up for a single week to a hodgepodge of civilians, "New Members," ostensibly selected from all over the country, but with a heavy emphasis on ... well ... let's just say the more conservative parts of our great Republic. The program is divided into seminar groups of about twenty students each, with seven civilian New Members brought in for the final week. I'm fairly confident I'm the first New Member to hail from Berkeley, CA.