New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech at the Gracie Mansion iftar brought tears to my eyes:
A few quotes worth highlighting:
Islam did not attack the World Trade Center. Al-Qaeda did. To implicate all Islam for the actions of a few who twisted a great religion is unfair and un-American. Today, we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with Al-Qaeda and other extremists who hate freedom.
Freedom and tolerance will always defeat tyranny and terrorism. And that’s the great lesson of the 20th century, and we must not abandon it here in the 21st.
This is a test of our commitment to American values, and we have to have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy. We must put our faith in the freedoms that have sustained our great country for more than two hundred years.
There is nowhere in the five boroughs of New York City that is off-limit to any religion. And by affirming that basic idea, we will honor America’s values, and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant, and free city in the world.
This weekend is the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks are in the best tradition of spiritually compassionate calls for tolerance, equality, and civil liberties which Dr. King epitomized in 1963. This is an American rhetorical and ideological tradition stretching back through the abolitionists, through Jefferson, and across the continent, though there is an argument to be made that it is New York City which best represents this spirit of freedom and inclusion:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I have devoted a lot of Facebook time these past couple weeks to promoting the voices of American freedom and acceptance which seek to put right the voices of misunderstanding which misguidedly believe that lower Manhattan is not the place for a Muslim community center. But you don’t have to be a politician whose words make it into a newspaper or onto YouTube to dispel intolerance—all you need to do is to remember that, from some vantage points in lower Manhattan—perhaps the top of the new Freedom Tower will be one of them—you can see the Statue of Liberty.