I really love amusement parks. There's just something about going on a 200-foot-high roller coaster and zipping down at 70+ MpH that makes me feel like putting my hands in the air and screaming like a lunatic.
But, there are rides that aren't exactly intense; The Merry-go-round, The tea-cup ride, and of course - the Ferris Wheel. And who would have thought such an innocuous ride would lead to such a debate on the mosque at ground zero.
I mean really, of all the places to have a debate, this would be the absolute last place that I would ever think to have this discussion - the queue line of a ferris wheel. So here I am in a t-shirt, and swim-trunks standing in line when a man and his son are in front of our group. The boy was behaving as any child would when in a ten minute queue, squirming, trying to make conversation. So he starts throwing out random comments out to other people; talking to ride operators, talking to we who are behind him.
The father then begins talking to us, and the conversation is pleasant. We talk about the unrelenting heat, the lack of lights on this Ferris Wheel. I'm not exactly sure how the conversation steered towards the Mosque at Ground Zero, but to make a long-story short, we went there.
The gentlemen basically said:
"It's like we're saying the terrorists have won. Those damn Muslims blew up the towers! And now we're just gonna let them build it there? It's an insult to the victims of 9/11"
I pointed out that other Muslims died in 9/11 and that basically forefits any claims that the terrorists can have to the Islamic religion, which resulted in:
"Yea, but that was their interpretation of Islam, they went under the banner of Islam."
I countered by reminding him that any lunatic can say they're part of a religion, but it doesn't make you a part of it. I asked if he felt the Westboro Baptist Church would be a good representation of Christianity. When he said astonished me:
"That's different, no they aren't Christians, they're lunatics, but they aren't killing people, just being stupid. But we have Muslims killing people all over the world in the name of Islam, and now we're building a mosque right where they killed 3,000 plus Americans!"
My friends chime in at this point and one who is very conservative said that she agreed that while it was a bad place to put the mosque the religion isn't bad, it was a bunch of lunatics who put a bad taste in our mouthes about the religion but the mosque at ground zero is "in bad taste."
I quickly added in that it's a mortal sin in Islam to mis-interpret the Qu'ran. The way it's interpreted in mainstream is the way it has been for a very long time. That's why you have conflict over the Sunni's and Shiite's. The sides view themselves, but not the other, as 'True Muslims.'
So when you have the über-religious group that mis-interprets the Qu'ran, they've fore-fitted their Muslim title to the rest.
In the spirit of compromise, they both agreed that if perhaps the Mosque was placed down the street from ground-zero, then that would be better for everyone, that they have a right to build a Mosque, but perhaps not there.
The mans son was watching us the entire conversation, and when I asked how old he was, he told me he was 8, so he wasn't alive for 9/11. I asked what he thought about Islam, but it became hard because the queue line was growing shorter, and soon we were being loaded onto the gondola's.
His sons response came as my friends and I were sitting in the gondola next to them. He said that he thought the religion wasn't real, and that the Muslims were terrorists.
The Ferris Wheel started moving, and soon the father and son were above us. I jumped over to the other side of the Gondola and met them on the top of the Ferris Wheel where it stopped and toyed with... just for a moment... considering telling his son if he thought I was a bad person, and that I was a muslim.
But that's a lie, I'm not. I'm just (barely) educated on the Religion, and have an extreme naiveté that all people are good. But I wanted to see his reaction. I just said that it's an innately peaceful religion, just very protective of it's beliefs, much like Christianity.
The Ferris Wheel started to move again, and as I saw the father and son, the father threw at us as he was rising out of sight:
"It's a shame too, the origional design for the World Trade Center was really nice, but the second Bush was out of office, those dimwitocrats scrapped the idea and gave us this stupid, ugly freedom tower. And now we have a mosque. It's insulting to Americans"
As they were now above us I was thinking of a rebuttal, but my firends who were laughing hysterically at me jumping back and forth to the different sides of the gondola pointed out that the man was clearly set in their ways, and that the son more than likely will trust him over me.
Not that I should stop, they pointed out - They could tell I was having as much fun with this as they were watching.
And so you may be thinking this: "You made a fool of yourself, and you kept trying to prove a point to someone who didn't want to listen, and to someones son to whom you have no authority to change examine his opinion."
But there is a reason for my insistance. You see, I left out at the start who my friends were. I had one conservative female friend 'Elise'. 'Elise' and I have very different beliefs, she's anti-birth control, Roman-Catholic and very family/values/tradition oriented. She and I both hold degrees and come from the same university.
We had our pal 'Greg' along who shared many of the same ideals as 'Elise' but he really didn't care what was going on with the Mosque one way or the other.
But then there's my last friend, the one who said nothing the entire time and just looked forward at the landscape the entire time. My Japanese friend 'Aimi' she just listened to the entire conversation, but I've had numerous conversations with her about Japanese-American relations since world war 2.
'Aimi' is only in her 20's, but is very savvy about the war from the Japanese perspective.
She said nothing through the entire discussion until after the ride when we got off, and said "Wow. I wonder if American's viewed the Japanese like that... oh, right the internment camps... it's really nice how far we've come." I gave her a hug.
I tried fighting the pervasive opinion that 'All Muslims are bad' so zealously because I know from history what happens if someone doesn't stand up and stop it when it happens. You can't really be afraid of people accusing you of being nosy, or how it's not any of your concern when right next to you is proof of how good relations between two countries can mend a broken past.
You can argue that time will mend things like this, but religion is such a weird beast. While you can simplify the Japanese-Islam to a parallel, it sadly, doesn't work because of the cavernous differences between the two situations. But this is why you get a lot of the 'Just nuke em' comments. It may just be bred of out a 'Get it over with' mentality, but I know behind that is an image of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how we view Japan now. (I hope)
It was a minor ordeal at best, but an interesting one. When the ride ended the father and son stayed with us and we all went on more rides together. So for anyone thinking that this was a heated debate, or that we ruined each others day - nope, didn't happen. We all maintained civility, and respected each other.
I gotta admit, it's nice to have different opinions, and openly admit - none of us have all the facts. Not I, not them, not anyone.
And yes, while we have our differences, it's refreshing that we can put them aside, get on a roller-coaster and scream our voices raw from the 200 foot drop, and not from screaming at each other. It makes for a nice change of pace.
God, I love roller-coaters.
I also hope you guys catch the self-depreciation within the article.