I never remember being so startled. A college professor reminded our class that almost every freedom guaranteed to the American people in the Bill of Rights was also guaranteed to the Russian people in the Soviet Constitution.
The difference, of course, was that nobody paid any attention to the Soviet Constitution. I thought of that professor last week as the conflict ensued over the opening of a mosque and community center in lower Manhattan. Everybody can understand the sensitivity. It was certain to be controversial but the application to open the mosque is ultimately an opportunity and not a problem.
What better way to contrast the rigid dogma of radical Islam than opening a Moslem place or worship near the site of the World Trade Center? What better way to demonstrate the strength of our ideals?
Critics are right that we are at war with radical Islam. The challenge is no different than the fight against communism or fascism. We don’t defeat our enemies by adopting their worst qualities but by maintaining our own.
Our faith in the founding principles of the Republic aren’t tested by conforming to the fears of our neighbors. Our country is not special because we defend the strong or stand with the majority. It’s moments like these that remind us of what makes America different.
A mosque at the site of our worst domestic tragedy? A community center built by those who share a faith with our enemies? Exactly. I couldn’t be more proud of my country nor confident of the future of our democracy. Through all of our divisions and all the clamor, we got it right. Again.