Friday, August 27, 2010

You Cannot Unring The Bell Once It's Been Rung - High Noon at the "Ground Zero" Mosque

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You Cannot Unring The Bell Once It's Been Rung - High Noon at the "Ground Zero" Mosque

Dear Readers (and those folk who are having this read to them):

It is August 27th, 2010, and I'd like to express my view on something currently in the news which demonstrates a recurring dynamic which has destroyed relationships between people since the very beginning of time.

It's a Fundamental Principle of Physics - A body in motion tends to remain in motion while a body at rest tends to remain at rest.

What happens (you ask) when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Why, The Cordoba Islamic Community Center and Mosque (referred to with increasing frequency as the "Ground Zero Mosque.") proposed to be built in downtown New York City!

Once you get something started, and you gain a bit of attention and momentum, it becomes increasingly impolitic to your own constituents and followers for you to back down -- or to even modify your plan. Those who support you, as well as those who are vigorously opposed to you, will invariably perceive this as weakness or an admission of wrongdoing -- it puts you in a very, very tough spot. It's somewhat like taking a dive off of the high board, only after looking down to notice that there is no water in the swimming pool while the crowds around you are cheering and jeering.

History reveals that we ("we," meaning any citizens of any country which appreciates ro purports to appreciate the notion of "rights') must vigorously exercise our rights in order to preserve them, even if sensibility, decency or a simple change of heart would have us retreat or make an exception -- to waive our rights "just this once".

Once you waive your rights, especially if you've been advocating them so vigorously and passionately, you don't generally appear to be considerate, even if you are, in fact, merely exercising your judgment not to exercise your legal rights due to pef3ectly reasonable circumstances. Human Nature dictates that most of the crowd around you and within your own ranks will view you as the loser in a battle that you actually brought upon yourself.

If rights are not exercised, they will ultimately be trod upon or disregarded entirely. Once you have admitted to having a right, if you are then given the opportunity to exercise it and fail to do so (especially if you were the first party to bring up the subject of your "rights') your inaction will always be misinterpreted to your disadvantage.

Sadly, business and military strategy both dictate that once you embark upon an aggressive assertion of your rights, you had better be prepared to see it to through to the finish.

The sponsors of the Mosque Project at issue might have done better not to have raised it in the very first place -- or to have raised it very quietly, with some advance politicking to pave the way for such an undertaking. It's potential for great offense (in the circumstances) was either not taken into full account, or there was deliberate affrontery and a challenge issued.

But once you stick your flag into the soil, it is most embarrassing to pull it out, retreat, and re-plant it further away...even if your supporters or detractors carve out some new territory for you to plant it in. If you re-plant the flag, it will be perceived as if you were waiving your rights, and worse; that you were "doing as someone else ordered you to do."

The developers of the Mosque Project are being watched by all of the Islamic world. If they were to "back down" now, the consequences politically, as well as the worldwide ramifications, would be enormous and calamitous. And because the bell has already been rung and the flag already planted, proceeding with the plan as originally announced will also have potentially calamitous ramifications. Damned in either case.

Do the developers have the legal right to build so close to the tragic, raw wound left by the terrorist attack on 9/11 -- yes -- in fact, they do. Absolutely. Are they playing a dangerous game by asserting this legal right? --Yes indeed. And the "game" cannot be unstarted just as a jet aircraft can land in the sky to "pull over" to repair a failing engine.

Too many Americans, especially New Yorkers, feel (predictably and understandably) that the contemplated placement of this mosque is arrogant, offensive and disrespectful.

Sadly, the longer the US tries to either palliate or intimidate the developers of this tribute to rights over ordinary sensibility or at least a clearer understanding of Human Nature, the more the developers will want to plant their flag even more deeply into the bloody soil. And they will be increasingly pressured to do so by the force of Human Nature's Gravity.

The most lamentable aspect of this "bridge-building and reconciliation" construction is that it will increase rejection by the people of the United States of Islam and its adherents. Expect tremendous blowback against Islam within the United States -- suspicion, hatred and an incredible upsurge in violence directed against Muslims in the US.

This could have been avoided, and should have. But now that the play is in motion, the construction, as planned, of this Mosque, threatens to be one of the greatest threats to American-Islamic relations worldwide. And if the location were changed, and the developers were to yield, there would be just as great a potential threat coming in the opposite direction.


1. Be careful before you make a public announcement;

2. Think about your rights before you act on them;

3. If you are in a position of advantage, beware that you do not press it to far -- better to be powerful and humble than powerful and too arrogant. The power part doesn't hurt people's feelings as much as the perception of arrogance does.

Watch. Humans are so predictable.

It hurts to know the future.


Douglas Castle

Key Tags, Terms and Labels: battle strategies, conciliation, defending rights, Ground Zero Mosque, irreversible political positions, outcomes, pragmatism versus arrogance, provocation, tolerance, US-Islamic relations, power, humility, pressing your advantage, anticipatory thinking.

Douglas Castle
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