Higgins: The Arizona solutionWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Furor has grown almost exponentially in the weeks since it was announced that an Islamic group would like to build a thirteen story complex within blocks of where the World Trade Center once stood. Regardless of whether the building is or would be perceived as a Community Center or a mosque (its design includes a minaret that would issue calls to prayer five times a day) and whether the motives of those building it are as a bridge extended by moderate Muslims or an attempt to place a trophy near a perceived site of Islamic extremist victory, the construction of this building has become a lightning rod of controversy.
Simultaneous protests were held in New York City last weekend, as people on both sides of the argument there and from coast to coast made themselves heard. This being an election year, politicians across the nation and at all levels of government are likewise taking a principled (or electable) position on the subject as well (in the President’s case, both). Speaker Pelosi even called for investigations into the funding of groups protesting the structure (and almost reluctantly later called for a similar inquiry into funding for the building itself).
Arguments for the structure seem to center on the religious freedom issue, defending the group’s desire to build as one of Constitutional freedom based on the First Amendment. Such a case cannot be made however since the Amendment cited in fact reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Since neither Congress nor any state or local legislature is proposing such a law, making such an argument is baseless.
Arguments against this building seem based on offending the sensibilities of families and friends of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as those of residents of NYC and the rest of the nation. Those opposed point out that the site of the World Trade Center is hallowed ground, stained with the blood of innocent victims of an attack made on this country; and as such should not have a symbol of the beliefs of those attackers desecrating it. While such arguments may be both compelling and appealing emotionally, they in fact hold no basis in law.
Ultimately however, the issue to be decided in this case is one of local responsibility and must be decided by local officials on the basis local laws. This is a private property issue after all, and unlike some, I cannot dispose of such concerns when they become inconvenient. If this structure does not violate any of the city’s laws regarding such construction, there is nothing that can be done legally to prevent construction.
Just because the rest of the country will not be allowed to weigh in on the legality of erecting such a structure however, does not mean that their voices cannot ultimately be heard; and should this project receive permission to go forward, I propose a way for that to happen that I call “The Arizona Solution”.
The Arizona Solution is modeled after protests, mounted predominantly by the left, that erupted in the wake of passage of immigration law in that state. Those who disagreed with Arizona’s desire to assist federal law enforcement quickly marshaled their forces around the country and called for boycotts of the state to show their dissatisfaction financially; many of which were subsequently approved. Some major league baseball players even weighed in, saying that they would refuse to play in the All-Star game to be held in Phoenix next year if such a law were in place.
While I have nothing against New Yorkers (in spite of the biased opinions of their press) I see no reason that such tactics cannot be used in this situation. In fact I find a certain amusing irony in proposing that municipalities and states refuse to allow their representatives to attend events held in NYC if this project goes forward. I likewise find the concept of non-violent challenge by any private citizen who refuses to travel to this city in protest both protected under the free speech section of the aforementioned First Amendment and of potentially considerable influence on a city greatly dependent on tourism.
While it is not my intention to inflict a hardship on the businesses and people in New York City, I suspect that the threat to do so might help define for Mayor Bloomberg and local leaders whether their principles or their political and financial futures are more important to them. I also find that using a form of protest often applied by the left to a cause that many of its strongest proponents support an opportunity to good to pass up, and urge you to likewise consider “The Arizona Solution.”
Tim Higgins blogs at http://justblowingsmoke.blogspot.com/