I had the good fortune to spend this past week-end at Camp Pendleton. Camp Pendleton, home of the 1st Marines, is a wonderful institution that is a City onto itself. It has a lot of history to it as it seeks to respect that history while having an eye on the future. This hit me as I checked out the Museum on the base featuring some of the Tanks and other vehicles going as far back as World War II.
As I drove through the base, I was amazed at the level of service and support given to our Armed Forces. From the simple things like McDonald’s to the Commissary, it shows a realization of why insuring that our Armed Forces must be taken care of. The one thing that caught my eye was the focus on Faith. I was reading in awe the services that the base offered for men and women of all faiths. They had a Roman Catholic Mass, a Protestant Service, Jewish Services and an Islamic Service. The Islamic Service was offered on Fridays at 12:00 noon.
As I noticed the bulletin, I was at first surprised. I had a chance to talk to an old friend who is a retired Marine to understand it further. Then it dawned on me how the Military understood how important it was to banish discrimination. My old friend noted how he learnt tolerance, understanding and appreciation for all faiths and not judge anyone but for the content of their character. It was our military that was at the forefront of integration. It was the Japanese Brigade during World War II that suffered the highest percentage of casualties despite the inequity that they were subjected to as a result of the internment. The Tuskegee Airmen underscored showed the rest of America the meaning of Service. It took some understandable time, but the military understood it and has practiced what it has preached. It is the very best in the tradition that is the America that I know.
As I drove away heading back, my mind again drifted back to New York City and the continued Mosque hysteria as I read up on the founder of Cordoba House trying to play a balancing act. I thought about the poll that noted how Americans were sceptical about President Obama’s Faith. I thought about the pronouncement by Franklin Graham about the fact that the President is in fact a Muslim. I wondered about Newt Gingrich’s pronouncements on his views of reconciling against the violent wing of Islam.
Mr. Gingrich is one of the “god fathers” of the current conservative wave that seems to be gaining traction in the Media Today. I admit that I am quite fascinating with the man. Not withstanding his personal shortcomings (and who does not have one), his website is full of interesting ideas. But his claim to build a safe, free and prosperous America falls flat on its face when he basically questions the loyalty of Muslims. He is, of course, the heir to a generation that questioned the loyalty of JFK to be President. Further, Gingrich and the rest of the current neo-conservative crowd pushing this new Islam hysteria needs to realize that the pronouncements are very much fueling the fire of discontent on the streets of the Middle East.
What I found especially disturbing about Gingrich is how he seems to have been totally ignorant of history when our founding fathers embraced Islam in a major way. I have to wonder what history he studied because he served as a Professor of History. What is clear is that Gingrich and his ilk are part of a crowd that is not the party of Lincoln anymore.
As I have thought about the stance that Gingrich and Co have taken, I view their stance on the Constitution to be interesting. Their claims to be Constitutionalists falls flat on its’ face because of the very contradictions before them. I have truly wondered whether such individuals truly read the Constitution. Do such individuals understand that there is a clause that protects the Freedom of Religion? The problem is that this is not just New York. This is happening all across the United States being pushed by some of the more extreme elements like the American Family Association. Gingrich and Co. even seem more reasonable compared to some of the more fringe elements like Brian Fischer of the American Family Association. Mr. Fischer claims that, “….. have argued that building permits can and should be denied for the building of mosques in American cities because each mosque is a potential or actual recruitment and training center for terrorism against the United States. Mosques cannot claim protection under the First Amendment for the simple reason that the agenda of Islam is the total destruction of Western civilization in general and America in particular….” (Source: http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147497585). I was trying to find some sort of a repudiation of this outrageous, ignorant and totally irresponsible statement by this man by the Republican Gang of No. I am yet to find one.
As I thought about the debate, I wondered whether individuals like Palin, Gingrich, Fischer and the rest of them ought to re-read the Constitution. For those who wrap themselves in the flag and believe that they are more patriotic, they should take the lesson from our wonderful men in Uniform and banish such talk and realize that everyone matters and no one’s faith should be questioned. They should realize that America’s strength is in its’ very diversity. This is not a liberal or a conservative issue. It is not a radical notion pushed by some left-wing, Marxist, socialist wacko group. It is only a plea for them to remember the essence of America. They need to be reminded that America has always survived such so-called patriots and has emerged stronger.
All of us need to be as courageous to learn from our Military as our wonderful men and women are in harms’ way and their families continue to sacrifice to protect and preserve those very values we cherish. The question is whether we have the true courage to do so.