Abraham Lincoln

THIS JUST IN: It turns out the so-called Ground Zero Mosque — the excuse for an outpouring of Islamophobic hatred from the tip of Manhattan to the pages of the Edmonton Sun — isn’t even at Ground Zero. (It’s not really a mosque, either, but never mind that.)

Nope, but the GZM is in fact one block from the site of New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club! That’s right, the New York Dolls topless strip club!

Now this, of course, means that in turn the “gentlemen’s club,” which in case you wondered isn’t really for gentlemen, is pretty close to Ground Zero — which, appropriately enough under the tragic circumstances of Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans think of and describe as “hallowed ground.”

Remember that everything on southern Manhattan is pretty close to everything else — and those of us who live in the great open spaces of Canada may not realize what a physically small place the New York financial district is. But what’s interesting about this is that the proximity of a nudie bar so close to hallowed ground doesn’t seem to have been a problem at all for the far-right opportunists trying to score points in the U.S. mid-term elections by drumming up a little convenient hatred and creating plenty of make-believe “facts.”

The phrase “hallowed ground” is a tip of the top hat to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is worth reading and re-reading. That November afternoon in 1863 at the site of the great battlefield in Pennsylvania that marked the high tide of the evil that was the Confederacy, Mr. Lincoln said, “We can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

That’s why the phrase resonates so powerfully with Our American Cousins in connection with another historic tragedy. This is true even for those many Americans who may have forgotten where they first heard it.

That said, one suspects pretty strongly that the nonsense spewing forth nowadays about the GZM isn’t exactly an expression of the “new birth of freedom” that Mr. Lincoln had in mind when he made his brief remarks at Gettysburg. Still, in a free society we have to tolerate a certain amount of mean-spirited nonsense, just as the people who spew it out need to be made to tolerate the right of others to worship where and how they please.

This is a point that the great defenders of freedom on the Canadian right, all too typically, seem to have missed.

But then, this ought not to surprise us. Our Canadian neo-liberals are just as cynical as their American counterparts, and stirring up a little rage and hatred serves the same purposes on this side of the border as it does on the other. Who knows, we may have an election soon here too…

But maybe this is unfair. These people tend, after all, to ascribe god-like powers to the market, bathing all commercial ventures in a glow of pious reverence. And, sure enough, the services rendered in a strip bar are commercial transactions not so different from such more respectable capitalistic activities as selling worthless derivatives based on underperforming mortgages to pensioners or overcharging elderly widows for unneeded home renovations.

So maybe, in their market fundamentalist way, there is a kind of consistency to the inconsistencies and oversights of the Tea Party right, including its embarrassingly derivative little acolytes here in Canada, of whom there appears to be no shortage.

Still, for the rest of us, illumination of these inconvenient new geographical facts somehow puts the GZM “debate” in an appropriately symbolic context. Hallowed ground, indeed!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’ blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...