The Ground-Zero Mosque: Barack Obama Rejects Muslim Collective Guilt for 9-11 and Affirms American Values

President Barack Obama does not oppose the building of the Cordoba Mosque a few blocks down from the former site of the World Trade Center.

And this is why I support the man. When it counts, Barack Obama is a man of the Enlightenment. He is determined, as Thomas Jefferson was once determined, to build a nation of individuals. And he knows when that vision is most threatened. 

In publicly rejecting the abominable idea that American Muslims bear collective guilt for 9-11, Barack Obama is demonstrating what it means to be an American president, and not a ridiculous and pathetic crack-pot Herderian volkish nationalist (as the Republican candidates for president—Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Tom Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich—are falling over themselves to try to demonstrate themselves to be on this issue). 

By contrast, in speaking forcefully and directly in favor of letting Muslims build the Cordoba Mosque, President Obama is directing us to our nation’s moral compass: the Bill of Rights.

What a great man Barack Obama is. We are lucky to have him as president. He is pushing back against the drift of our politics into a profound moral darkness.

Below is what volkish Herderian nationalism looks like, and it ought to serve as a dramatic caution to our American Herderites: the Tea Partiers. This is an image of a Jewish synagogue gutted at the heart of Germany’s greatest city, Berlin. It’s destruction was part of the response of German fascists to the assassination of a German embassy attache in Paris. The embassy attache was murdered by a Polish Jew, and German Jews, for their “collective guilt,” suffered for it. It’s what a gesture of retribution for collective guilt looks like, and it’s what Republicans in our country are trying to drift our own national values toward.

If this mosque doesn’t get built, Herderite Tea Party “patriots” will swoon over their “Christian” nationalist victory. Likewise, if it does get built, expect to see some of those very same Herderite Tea Party “patriots” try to deface it or even bring it down in their own act of terrorism. This is the logic of collectivist and volkish blood and soil nationalists and religious fanatics.

And against them stands an American president: a man sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. His name is Barack Obama. Are you with him?

I am. 

1938 Interior of Berlin synagogue after Kristallnacht.jpg

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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9 Responses to The Ground-Zero Mosque: Barack Obama Rejects Muslim Collective Guilt for 9-11 and Affirms American Values

  1. I think there is a huge contradiction in the argument of those opposed to the NY mosque, if I understand them correctly. Let’s start by stating what I think is the most coherent argument against the mosque.

    If there is a coherent argument at the heart of the opposition to the mosque, I understand it to be this.
    Al Quaeda and the like will see this mosque being constructed as their “victory”, a monument to their heinous act of almost a decade ago, on the gravesite of their victims to boot. This will somehow inspire them to even more heinous acts.

    That most Muslims aren’t in Al Quaeda or don’t see the mosque in this way would be irrelevent. The case against the mosque (irrespective of the fact we are trashing our own bill of rights) is based on not sending this message to Al Quaeda.

    But most people who make this argument seem to also sneer at Obama’s efforts to reach out to Islam. They generally argue that Al Quaeda is totally unconcerned about if we reach out but will implacably pursue destroying western civilization. Moderate Islam, if it even exists, cannot affect Al Queada. Some also conflate all of islam and Al Quaeda as well, as proceeding down a path or unspeakable brutality, regardless of our message belligerant or reaching out, and Obama is a fool to send any message other than force to destroy terrorist where we find them.

    Here is my point. Given their view that messages to Al Queada are irrelevant, then what matter is it that we send any message by allowing the mosque to be built? Terrorists behavior will be unaffected by the mosque being built or not according to the critics of the mosque.

    Either: there are no “moderate” Muslims (some really believe this!) to be offended by stopping the mosque, and Al Quaeda will be just as dangerous; or moderate Muslims will be driven into the arms of Al Quaeda.
    Stopping this mosque will at best accomplish nothing, and more likely do enormous damage to our constitution, our security, our relation with the Islamic world and the world at large.

    • santitafarella says:


      Well said.

      Another argument against the right’s “aid and comfort to the enemy” line is this: by letting the mosque be built you send a signal to Al Queada that the Enlightenment is alive and well. Under fire we do not torch our Bill of Rights. We really do treat individuals as individuals.

      The narrative of Al Quaeda is that beneath the surface of America is rot and fascism. If the mosque gets built it shows that such an analysis, under pressure, is false. This is a moment for America to shine and display its genuine strengths.

      I think that the poll numbers on this, if Obama stays bravely out in front on the issue, will change. People will “come to.” This is a chance for Obama to call the country to its higher self and expose Al Queada abroad and the right at home to be utterly bankrupt and on the wrong side of history.


      • G.I. Zero says:

        Santi you are more enlightened than Obama, he has already taken the easy way out and questioned the “wisdom” behind the mosque to appease those on the right. Obama is an elite democrat and definitely not the “change” we needed. Still, glad he is in office instead of McPalin and will vote for him again, but it saddens me that he is the best we can do. Oh well, just goes to show that there are a few people who truly are more powerful than the POTUS. The mosque needs to go up and christian Americans need to accept it with open arms, unfortunately I can’t see that happening. Investigate 9/11 and then find out if all this hostility and wars towards Muslims is even warranted.

      • santitafarella says:

        GI Zero:

        I’m sad if Obama is finding a weaker course through this. Here’s a chance for the country to rise to its best self. In my fantasy, I’d love to see Barack Obama invite every member of congress, every living former president, every CEO and academic opinion leader in the country to an event in which they all take a group photo together affirming that Muslim American citizens are individuals and will be treated as such. This is our moment to stand up for the 21st century “Jews” among us: individuals who are being treated as the bearers of a collective guilt.

        If only 20% of those invited had the political courage to attend, it would still speak volumes: every invited person would be faced with an existential decision to stand up for the Bill of Rights, and for individualism and reason, or be silent. Those who attended would teach children for generations what America is, and what this country, at its best, means.

        If I were Obama, I’d stake my presidency on this issue and let the Republicans demagogue away. In the long view of history Obama might lose a second term but keep the nation’s soul in tact (for future generations to look back on). It is something people would say in retrospect, “Barack Obama stood up for what America is. He pointed the way when we had temporarily lost it.”

        He started right on this, and he needs to not go wobbly now.


  2. Pingback: “Improvised Explosive Devices”: Bryan Fischer Says No to the Ground-Zero Mosque—and All Mosques « Prometheus Unbound

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