"If you think there is no agenda here, you are at the very least naive."
The writer’s response came as no surprise: I have been accused of being naive before; I have Asperger's. Folk with Asperger's Syndrome tend to take things at face value; we tend to need facts and proof, and employ logic, which is not to say that we don’t also take feelings under consideration. Feelings alone, however, offer little to understand whether the negative reaction to the community center is warranted.
I’ve noticed that people who are wired normally tend to be overly suspicious. Suspicion, an adaptive trait necessary to the survival of the species, requires moderation in everyday life. Indeed, excessive and unfounded suspicion is harmful to human relations. We need only look at our own lives to see how unhealthy levels of suspicion contribute to unnecessary drama with family, friends, and co-workers, causing people to read into another’s behavior something that was never intended.
No doubt, being very suspicious of “the other” was fine when we could just scare strangers away, but the world no longer works that way. That is, it doesn't work that way if we plan to keep freedoms that we ourselves value, such as religious freedom and freedom of speech. In a shrinking world, it’s imperative that we learn to get along with others and not go around beating our chests at the first hint of danger or affront, particularly when that hint as to how to feel or think is provided by a pundit or a political operative.
What we think we see or what we are told is not necessarily what is, and the “mosque” flap is a case in point. The Imam behind the flap has been looking for a community center site in Manhattan since 1999. Besides, we ought to know that pundits and political operatives are keen to set upon circumstances to affect election outcomes. Why is it then that we are more concerned with a community center that has been in the works since 1999 than words that appear intended to cause a knee-jerk nationalistic response?
From what I’ve been able to discern, we are dealing with yet another political football; an issue meant to divide and distract for election purposes with no thought given to the damage this game playing does to our culture, our efforts abroad, or our freedoms.
What enables the average American to be so confident with their perceptions of what is, or is not, that they can conclude with great speed that nefarious intent must be behind the building of the center, particularly one that has been in the works since before 9/11? Remember: Terrorists bombed the Twin Towers on 9/11; not a sovereign nation, and certainly not the families of the innocent Muslims who died that day. Did their families and other Muslim Americans give up their right to religious freedom, to develop property, to speak freely because of a handful of Muslim extremists?
In the meantime, in an effort to improve human relations, perhaps we humans would be better off if we employed healthy levels of suspicion or healthy naiveté in our dealings with others.
Martha note #2: WMRA is not just a radio station; it's a community conversation held through Virginia Insight (starting today, on twice a week, remember), the WMRA Facebook page and this blog. If you have an issue you'd like to put out on the conversational table, please let me know. I so welcome guest WMRA bloggers.