It’s not about defending a religion, it’s about opposing a slow slide into fascism

“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” — Sinclair Lewis quotes (American Writer, 1885-1951)

I’m stepping outside this column’s normal subject matter — news and media in Peoria — to discuss an extremely important topic: The country’s slow striking embrace of fascism.

It should go without saying that just because someone is a member of a particular religion, that does not mean they are equally guilty of the sins of some members of that same religion. And isn’t it a cornerstone of American society that ALL religions enjoy equal rights, not just the popular ones? And how about the rule that we all enjoy equal protection under the law?

The “Ground Zero Mosque” issue seems to have vast segments of the population willing to toss these cherished ideals into the garbage. First, it isn’t a mosque. It’s a cultural center, not much different than Friendship House on Peoria’s near north side. Second, it’s not at ground zero, it’s several long, New York City blocks away. It’s not sacred ground, considering the center’s neighbors will be bars and strip joints.

Neo-conservative bloggers and a New York Post columnist have been spreading the story that the project is being funded by terrorists, and that the whole thing is a scheme to impose terrorist-loving Muslim culture upon the victims of 9-11. The reality that the people running the project are the exact sort of conciliatory, can’t-we-all-get-along Muslims that American are supposed to LIKE. Who is funding the project? No doubt that some of the cash comes from Arab nations. But we don’t demand list of contributors to Christian or Jewish charities. We just treat them like they have the right to do with their property as they please (well, within the framework of a bunch of zoning, building and historic preservation codes, just like in Peoria).

And this ginned-up outrage has had a wonderful effect on our once peace-loving, tolerant nation. A Muslim cab driver was attacked in his cab. A drunken bigot walked into one mosque and verbally assaulted the worshippers, then urinated on the carpet. Almost daily, there is a report of municipalities turning down requests to build mosques renovate existing buildings into mosques. These decisions have NOTHING to do with the sign-carrying protesters.

Listen, you have the right to believe that Islam is the stupidest, most hateful religion on the face of the Earth. Trust me, there are people who think YOUR religion is just as stupid and hateful. Think 9-11 is all the evidence you need to support your position? Fine. There’s plenty of evidence available to support that same opinion about every single religion.

And “sensitivity” to the survivors of 9-11 victims is no excuse. Since when do we excuse discrimination because it’s perpetrated by or in behalf of victims? It was not even a month ago when right-wingers demanded the head of a member of the Obama administration because an old, highly edited video suggested that the past victimhood of her family made her consider not helping white people.

I do not believe every American shares these bigoted opinions, and certainly most people are personally much more tolerant. I don’t even believe most conservatives believe this way. But the loudest and most bigoted seem to be dominating the debate, and the majority is remaining silent.

And that is the problem. People who should be speaking about this are not. When politicians want to scapegoat an entire religion to boost their election chances … it just strikes me as too similar to what happened in Germany before the Nazis took over. Think I’m being alarmist? No one thought Hitler was much of a threat until it was too late. So people of conscience need to speak up now.

Is that the world we want to create? Real patriots would be trying to prevent this world from happening.

Block the Block

By the time you read this, there will be petitions going around calling for a new referendum on whether sales taxes should be collected in Peoria County to help for the museum on the square project on Peoria’s riverfront.

The petition of museum backers is that the project has changes too much since the official referendum, and voters deserve a second opinion.

Go to for details.

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