You've probably heard of plans to build a mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City.
Palin and her cabal have decided to get involved in this controversy. They have chosen to announce their intention in the form of tweets on Twitter, which read thus:
Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing
Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too realThese tweets come a mere five days after the posting of Palin's Facebook note, "The Charge of Racism: It’s Time to Bury the Divisive Politics of the Past." In that note, Palin makes the following rather surprising announcement:
Like President Reagan, Tea Party Americans believe that “the glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past.” Isn’t it time we put aside the divisive politics of the past once and for all and celebrate the fact that neither race nor gender is any longer a barrier to achieving success in America – even in achieving the highest office in the land?
What would make Palin think that we have moved beyond racism and sexism?
It seemed that with the election of our first black president, our country had become a new “post-racial” society. As one writer in the Washington Post stated: “[Barack Obama’s] election isn’t just about a black president. It’s about a new America. The days of confrontational identity politics have come to an end.”An appeal to the authority of Ronald Reagan also helps:
President Reagan called America’s past racism “a legacy of evil” against which we have seen the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights. He condemned any sort of racism, as all good and decent people do today. He also called it a “point of pride for all Americans” that as a nation, we have successfully struggled to overcome this evil. Reagan rightly declared that “there is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country,” and he warned that we must never go back to the racism of our past.
Now, how are Palin's tweets and Palin's Facebook note related?
The citizens of New York have unfortunately been subjected to many moral tests recently, and they are being subjected to another one now. When we had an opportunity to prove that our political ideals were not mere words and try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 plotters in New York City, we succumbed to our irrational fears. And it's happening again, right now. We have no more to fear from a mosque in New York City than we do a Christian church, for Christianity has been the cause of as much violence, suffering, and evil as any other religion has. What better symbol to the rest of the world of the moral superiority of the United States and its institutions than a thriving mosque a short walk from Ground Zero?
For whatever reason, many Americans are less interested in their ideals than they are their fear. Whether intentionally or not, Palin and others are exploiting this fear. For all I know, Palin is as afraid of Muslims as are the voters to whom she panders, and the tweets are not part of some cynical political calculation. In either case, though, Palin is appealing to the worst of our natures and thus making efforts to radicalize young Muslims that much easier.
But how could Palin even hope to capitalize on this issue politically if the United States truly were beyond the "ethnic and racial hatred" of its past? The fear behind the campaign to kill the mosque project is grounded in the worst kind of prejudice: it is grounded in the belief that the 9/11 hijackers and members of Al Qaeda are representative of Muslims everywhere, when that is simply false. (And if anyone is looking for proof of the heterogeneity of Islamic political thought, you may find it here.)
It is ironic that Palin insists on the moral uprightness of the Tea Party at a time when Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express has been expelled from The National Tea Party Federation for publishing a disgusting satirical letter from NAACP leader Ben Jealous to President Abraham Lincoln. If you're not convinced that it's disgusting, you can read more of it here; the entire letter can be read here. Whether his target was the leadership of the NAACP or African-Americans in general, it's still disgusting and perhaps even racist.
Palin and other conservatives hope to convince Americans that we are beyond racism, sexism, and other evils simply by insisting that we are. But we clearly are not, as I have argued elsewhere. Those who insist that the Tea Party movement is racist are very likely wrong (though stories like this suggest otherwise). But in defending the Tea Party against charges of racism, Palin's words sound rather dismissive of the concerns of those who struggle against racism and sexism every day. According to Palin, women and minorities who complain that they have been victims of unjust discrimination are simply engaging in the divisive, confrontational identity politics of the past. Palin's words are a big "Go fuck yourselves" to all of them. But as we all know, women and minorities who seek equality are not in Palin's target audience.
The irony of all of this is that by participating in opposition to the New York City mosque, Palin is practicing the very divisive, confrontational identity politics of the past she claims to abhor.
Even though I have no interest in having a Twitter account, I close with the following tweets, complete with Palinesque abuse of the language:
Peace-seeking Muslims, New Yorkers refuting Ground Zero mosque plan don't understand how opposition stabs hearts; please be patient with them
Peaceful New Yorkers; do not refute the Ground Zero mosque plan; the pain you add to the catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real