Really? There is a debate about this?

I reserve my political and religious rants for those that I have an established rapport with and in settings that are conducive to conversation and respectful debate.  Usually.  But, this is a rant on a subject that hits too close to home for me, both in geography and in ideology, to wait for that kind of setting.

There is a group of Americans, New Yorkers, that purchased a building in Lower Manhattan over a year ago.  The building has been vacant for years and sold for an amazingly low price.  It is in a very slow part of the city without much action.  You have to be intentionally walking down that side street to even see the building.  These Americans want to renovate the building and make it a good spot for the neighborhood and a place that can revitalize this old building and this slow block in the city.

But, these Americans are Muslims.

So therefore it is an issue.

The absolute travesty of the "debate around the Ground Zero Mosque" is we even need to have this 'debate.' The fact that there are other Americans that feel that this is a contentious subject of conversation makes me extremely sad and extremely angry.  Sad that this isn't an announcement in the local paper but a debate that the citizens of the freest country in the world feel the need to have.  Angry at the misinformation and sheep-like behavior of its opponents who obviously haven't spent any time looking at the facts of the situation. The intentional ignorance and suspicions espoused by those saying that these Americans shouldn't have the same rights as any other American based on their faith is ludicrous.

The Park51 project is going to be a community center run by one of the most publically moderate iman's in the world.   Since the horrific acts of September 11, 2001, Mr. Abdul Rauf has decried the extremists in Al Qaeda and has been one of their most vocal opponents in the Muslim world.  The community center that will be housed at Park51 will be open to men and women, will have basketball courts and a cooking institute, and will also be a meeting place for the leaders of several interfaith communities that Mr. Abdul Rauf has been a leader of for years.

If could be said, that for those reasons, women and non-Muslims being allowed inside, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich share the same perspective on the project as Osama bin Laden.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was spot on when he spoke to the issue in early August: "If we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists - and we should not stand for that."

The best perspective I've heard on this ridiculousness of this controversy comes from the media personality I dislike more than any other.  But, on this subject, and perhaps only this subject, Keith Olbermann and I agree. (Seriously, I really dislike this guy, but this is worth taking the 12 minutes to watch)

But, as a skeptic of the media in general, I went down to Park51 this weekend to see what all the fuss was about. What I found was what I had hoped (and known) I would find: New Yorkers of all walks of life going about their day to day, enjoying the freedom that we all have here in America.  The freedom that was, is, and always will be worth fighting for.

Freedom of Religion from Andy Ellwood on Vimeo.

Are You Kidding Me?

Sometime between when I was a kid and now, the idea of "Participation Trophies" came about. If your kid shows up for soccer practice, games, and you bring oranges slices and juice boxes for halftime snacks, your kid is going to get a trophy at the end of the year pizza party. Whether they team ever won a single game.
Today's news that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize is culmination of the "self esteem gospel" that has been perpetrated through our society and education system for the past 20 years. As long as you feel good about yourself and the effort that you made, don't worry about real tangible results. If you had a good idea and failed, don't worry, it's okay. If you built your company on a bad business model, but were lucky enough to get "too big to fail," the nanny state government is there to bail you out. If you were just tired of the doom and gloom of the financial crisis, don't worry, even without real changes in the fundamentals, a plumitting U. S. Dollar, and unemployment of almost 10%, the stock market will come back by more than 40% some you can feel better about yourself.
As someone who has never suffered from self esteem issues, I have been guilty of efforts without results on multiple occasions. I have been proud of making a list of goals, but not achieving them. I have smiled when thinking about my dreams, but not taking decisive action to achieve them.
I have also learned that nothing of real value comes without extreme dilligence, real results, and excruciating hard work.
Today I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize is no longer something of real value.

Real Change?

A note from my Uncle Herb referencing the post Sober Hope below:
"After reading the comments of your friend Skinner, I also received this. I thought it not only melded well with his comments, but also said a lot from the military. I have a buddy who is currently doing a National Guard tour as an Instructor at the Command and Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. The video in the link was used on the day after the Inauguration at both the Army War College and the Staff and Command College to help the senior Army officers adjust to the new Commander in Chief..."

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: NONE
"Yea we have real change! This Jon Stewart video was used at the Army War College yesterday as a CE for discussion on strategic leadership. ..."
Changefest 2009 - Obama's Inaugural Address

Sober Hope

I just finished reading a fantastic post with sobering thoughts by my friend Skinner HERE. The points he made about the way that Presidencies have played themselves out since Eisenhower is really telling and his recommendation to bring our expectations in check is needed. It is a little bit of a damper for the HOPE that the new administration has asked this country to have, but it is nonetheless an important reminder.

Fight Through

"Yeah today is special for me. I am black. But it is not just that, it is that he (Obama) didn't use being black as an excuse for not becoming everything he could be. He just fought and fought and finally made his way to the top. That is what true success is, regardless of your color."
These profound and deeply insightful words were shared with me today by Ed, the Time Warner Cable installation contractor. While he was hooking up my cable, CNN's coverage was playing in the background. The above quote was in response to my question of whether seeing Obama elected was significant for him personally.
Ed grew up in a military family and was a star running back for his high school. His father was an ultimate disciplinarian as were his football coaches. Ed had a significant career in the military himself and the precision with which he did his work was a testament to his training and life experiences.
It was the way in which Ed shared this thought with me that got me thinking today. On a day when we celebrate the beginning of a new era in our countries history, but a day in which a fight that has spanned generations has seen a resolution. A fight that has brought on significant casualties and hurt thousands in the deepest way has been silenced. A fight that still rages in many parts of the world where the truth that "all men were created equal" is not acknowledged. Today I saw what that fight looks like in the eyes of Ed. That it is not an excuse or a cop out for not achieving your dreams. Race slowed Ed down. Race is the reason that Ed had to reapply to the Jump school. Race is the reason that Ed didn't make the Green Berets his first time out. Race is the reason that he wasn't drafted like the less talented running backs at his highschool in the deep south. But race was also the fuel for the God given fire that already burned in his belly to overcome.
So on this day of unity and peace, I had my own moment of clarity with Ed, the 53 year old cable installation contractor. We both knew that today was a significant day, especially for anyone who has what it takes to fight.

"The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion." - Abraham Lincoln

A Dream Coming True

There is nothing better than a dream that comes true. Whether it is my own, or someone else's, it is an amazing thing to behold. If it is possible for their to be a more dramatically showcased fulfillment of a dream coming true than what is taking place in Washington DC today and tomorrow, I do not know what it is. On this MLK day, I was rereading and thinking over his historic and very well know speech, "I have a dream." Watching his delivery of it and reading the text, I was struck by what an incredible country we live in. Reading his words and hearing the force of what he dreamt about with the monumental backdrop of the Obama family poised to take the office of the President, truly a stunning and staggering thought. What a great country we live in, regardless of your political views (because in this country, you are allowed to have whatever views you'd like)
Here are some of my favorites lines from MLK's speech:

"But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt."
" Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."
"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream, TODAY"

(read the full text of MLK's speech HERE or watch it for yourself below)

Grant Park Soundtrack

It was subtle, but through the broadcast of the excitement in Grant Park on Tuesday night, three more than perfect songs were played. Only in America by Brooks and Dunn came blasting out shortly after 10pm CST when it was official that Obama had secured the Presidency with 0% precincts reporting from CA, OR, and WA. The lyrics are awesome:

"...One kid dreams of fame and fortune
One kid helps pay the rent
One could end up going to prison
One just might be president
Only in America - Dreaming in red, white and blue
Only in America - Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance - Everybody gets to dance - Only in America..."

Then immediately after Obama addressed the nation and the new first family walked the runway and did their faux waves and "hey there, you" pointing in the crowd a song that has been one of my favorites since Annie introduced me to it came on. The Rising by Bruce Springsteen was so fitting, perfectly orchestrated to build the excitement as the music builds and the Boss belts out the "Na na na nas..."

But then, in what I would assume not too many other people caught (or maybe just thinking that makes me feel special) the music switched over to instrumental. I could hear the strains of the gorgeous symphony orchestra provide an audible backdrop to one of the most historic scenes in American history (regardless of how you voted) As the concerto continued to build, the song became familiar to me and I realized that just like Obama's entire campaign, everything had been planned down to the very last nuance. The lyric-less song that was blast across the sea of excitement in Chicago was the theme song from The Patriot. Genius.