New York's governor weighed in on the Cordoba House yesterday, claiming his efforts at arranging an "alternate" site were close to fruition. Paterson might as well find an "alternate" bridge to cross the Alabama River -- why march through Selma when you can go miles out of your way and cross at Prattville? -- or an "alternate" lunch counter to Woolworth's, or an "alternate" drinking fountain, or even an "alternate" seat on the bus. As in the Civil Rights Era, there cannot be a neutral ground.
If I seem harsh, it's because I earned the right to be harsh about this. A few weeks ago I noticed a loss of feeling in three toes of my left foot; this is the latest sign of degeneration from the damage my lumbar spine sustained while serving my country. You'll excuse me if I take freedom very seriously, and not merely my own but that of others. To progressives, there is no difference; to regressives, the rights of one subtract from the rights of another. The relative distance of a mosque or community center or titty bar from 'ground zero' makes no difference to the zero-sum mindset, which is why regressives seem impervious to facts.
The president gets this. Last weekend he reframed the debate around Cordoba House by separating the question of whether Manhattan's Muslim community has the right to build Cordoba House from the question of whether it is right to build it at 51 Park Place. Polls show that most Americans get the first part, agreeing Muslims have a "right" to build at that location -- even though the same polls show a majority doesn't think it is the right thing to do. The difference is more than semantic.