August. The month of August is to blame. Well, more directly, the cable news editors, newspaper columnists and Sarah Palin, who have to keep talking, writing and complaining even though nothing happens in Washington during August. Not much happens in New York City either, except this year.
We usually turn our attention to the beach, baseball (or fantasy football drafts for some) and trying to avoid back-to-school commercials on TV.
A look back at August 2009 (made possible by Wikipedia) shows mostly international news including violence in Baghdad, an earthquake in Indonesia and tension between Georgia and Russia. In domestic stories, Michael Jackson’s toxicology report was released and on August 26, 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy passed away dominating the news cycles.
It’s no secret that in today’s media culture, August is a potentially dicey time for juicy stories. This is why the Ground Zero mosque, also known as Park51, has exploded onto our national consciousness. Am I underestimating certain people’s level of emotion surrounding this project? Perhaps, the conservative right seems particularly fired up about it. But I think they are being fired up by those individuals (Palin, Breitbart, Beck and Limbaugh) who under different external circumstances wouldn’t be giving the same advice. But its August.
It’s too early to start talking about the November mid-term elections. So, we’re left with a noncontroversial controversy. Seriously people, this is America. The people who trumpet individual freedom, free market economy and limited government intervention are what- asking the government to stop the development of an Islamic community center? I’m not exactly certain (mainly because I change the channel anytime a “roundtable discussion” of mosque “experts” comes on) what authority or right anyone has to stop this project.
Now, before I get off topic, I want to get back to who’s to blame. My goal here is (or was) not to get involved in the should we/shouldn’t we allow this project. My goal is to point out that I think this story has become larger than necessary simply because of the politics of August.
I think the political officials in charge of this property should have simplified the debate by saying, “Look, you have the right to protest anything you want, but this thing is happening.” It would have been a different story. Plus, people protest ridiculous things all the time in New York City. Instead, many individuals on both sides of this debate turned it into a rehashing of 9/11 and a conversation about the viability or extremity of Islam in America. That’s like taking a debate about the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court and turning it into a conversation about wardrobe and alleged homosexuality…oh wait.
So, thanks to August and the fact that cable news never has a “recess” the way Congress does, we are stuck with this controversy. Do I think that this required the attention of Gov. Paterson, President Obama and all of the Washington D.C. news media? No. In fact, I think President Obama has better things to be doing with his time. And yet, here we are. Luckily, he just went on vacation and perhaps with his and Congress’ absence the story will be over come September 1st. Plus, then it’s Labor Day weekend and who can think about religious freedom when there are so many barbeques to attend and college football games to watch.
Song of the day: September by Earth, Wind and Fire.