Dear Mr. President,
As long as I'm on a role with the political cliches, I might as well concede that all politics is local. The decision to build an Islamic community center in New York is and should be a local one. Initially I supported the White House's decision not to comment, but once it became a rallying cry for every Tea Party mouthpiece from Sarah Palin to Newt Gingrich. It seemed as though maybe the White House ought to weigh in. But the recent denouncement of the decision by the Anti-Defamation League, (which, unbelievably, seems to think religious freedom ought to be contingent upon no one being irrationally upset by it,) compels me to change my mind.
Nate Silver has provided some excellent analysis on how the polling and media coverage have mislead the public, not only abou the nature of this project, but about it's relative proximity to ground zero, based largely on the lies of those who oppose it. Mr. Silver suggests, and I agree with his conclusions, that the polling data might not be an accurate reflection of public opinion, as it is based on questions constructed with vague or false information. I think it is clear that many of the people claiming to be opposed to the construction of the community center (besides not being New Yorkers,) have been misinformed. Republicans across the country are using this as a campaign issue to excite their base and sway those who haven't been given all of the facts. It's both politically expedient and morally imperative that you make a stand in support of the community center.
For starters, you're probably already aware that it's being linked to you, regardless of your lack of an official position. I'm guessing that an official speech declaring your support for religious freedom wouldn't alienate any one planning to vote Democrat in the fall, and might even win back some of the independents swayed by this nonsense, in clearing up the facts. But, even beyond the political gain, as our nation's leader, I feel like you have a responsibility to defend our values, and to remind us all when we've let fear and partisanship come before our basic humanity. Religious freedom is an American value, and anyone should have the right to build a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or even a satanic shrine anywhere. We don't have Islam-free zones, and most every rational, informed American recognizes this as important to the religious freedom of all Americans.
There was a moment in your Presidential campaign when a surprisingly frank and honest speech about race turned things around for you. But it was more than a turning point for your campaign; that speech healed a small part of a much larger wound on the psyche of our nation. It brought people together and reminded them that the challenges we face are only made more difficult by fear. These attempts at dividing us, once again, are coming at a time when we need unity more than ever. I believe that what this issue needs, more than anything is the wisdom and leadership that we expect from our President during times of fear and uncertainty. People need to know that all of America will always be safe for them, regardless of their faith. People need to know that they are being lied to and manipulated by those who would gain power from their fear. People need to know that Muslims in America have the full rights and protections of the US constitution, and the support of their president. No comment is no longer good enough, Mr. President; right or wrong, this has become a national issue, and it demands your leadership.
Is it not more than a little hypocritical for Republicans to reject a bill that would move aid to injured 9/11 workers while simultaneously invoking their sacrifice to oppose religious freedom for Muslims?
Update: Nate Silver (probably my one true love) just posted an addition to his earlier post.