As many have heard, some want to build an Islamic Center near ground zero in New York City. Contrary to what reports would have us believe, there already exists a location for prayer. The goal is to expand the facility and create a center that would focus on building peaceful relations between Muslims and the West. I will admit that before reading more on the topic, I tended to lean against the construction of the facility near ground zero because I felt they could build it elsewhere.
Then in steps Obama. When I first saw he was getting involved in a controversial local issue which he did not need to get involved in, I was frustrated and could not begin to fathom why he would insert himself and risk public fury. Then I continued reading and began thinking. Beyond the initial knee-jerk reactions, I began to see the significance and wisdom of getting involved. It was indeed an issue of national importance too, not merely a local issue to be written off for political expedience. Obama did, after all, promise a new kind of politics and decision making that would rely on our fundamental democratic values rather than political maneuvering.
It was actually Michael Bloomberg’s quote in the article linked above comparing Obama to George Washington that got me thinking: “Two hundred and twenty years ago this week, the Father of Our Country penned his famous letter to the Jewish Community of Newport Rhode Island or, as he called them, ‘the Children of the Stock of Abraham.’ President Obama’s words tonight evoked President Washington’s own August reminder that ‘all possess alike liberty,’” Bloomberg said.
After all, for those thumping the Constitution, what Constitutional basis does one have for barring particular religious facilities from certain places? As mentioned earlier, a location for prayer already exists. The expanded facility is merely to focus on peace.
My opinion evolved over the course of a couple hours of thought. While I still have some reservations and believe it would be best for the facility to be built elsewhere, I now am accepting of the proposed facility and have come to understand and respect that Obama’s involvement is a continuation of his policy of building a new attitude in this country and the world. President Obama was standing up not only for morale principles, but Constitutional principles. That is, after all, what he took an oath to do. If he merely wanted to act out of political expedience, he could hit the easy button on every difficult issue or avoid such issues altogether. But then one would merely be taking safe positions to remain in office to…take safe positions? What would be the point of holding public office and seeking reelection if you weren’t going to serve any cause other than your own job security? Obama stood on principle and stood for democracy.
It may make some uneasy now, but down the road it will be looked upon in the broader context of his presidency – a presidency that has made an honest effort to change the old ways of hate, manipulation, and power for the sake of power and instead reestablish the morale and democratic values on which we were established well over two centuries ago. I believe that’s what we refer to as leadership.