The question of whether a community center that houses a mosque can or should be built a few blocks away from the Ground Zero acreage, in a building most New Yorkers wouldn’t pay attention to if it wasn’t on the news 24/7, has spawned a squabble that is the intellectual equivalent of arguing whether or not you are supposed to stop at a STOP sign.

Maybe some of us have been reading the Constitution incorrectly. Maybe our insistence on treating it as one contiguous document, with all of its clauses and amendments to be read and interpreted in relationship to one another, as well as the legal precedents that have been derived from it, is simply wrong, because I can’t think of any other reason that political strategist Matthew Dowd has for saying on This Week with Christiane Amanpour earlier today that “you have to build consensus on this.” Matthew Dowd is a part of the problem. Since when do we need to "build consensus" about existing law? The people have been wrong before.

 

“The problem is that two thirds of the country opposed him on this – that’s a problem for our president of the United States. I think he is in totally—he states what’s in the constitution, they have a right to build it—that’s not the point of this, that is not the point in this.

You have a right for free speech doesn’t mean you can go and like, yell-

[CROSSTALK]

The point of is you have to build consensus on this. Tolerance goes two ways. Tolerance goes two ways.  Tolerance is the tolerance for someone to build on private property what they want, but tolerance also is to recognize what that symbolically says to a whole bunch of people in this country. And if you don’t recognize that, you’re going to have this kind of furor.”

Matthew Dowd, This Week Roundtable discussion August 15, 2010, “Mosque Madness” segment

 

This is why America remains tortured by its contradictions—by insisting, even for a split second, that there should be some level of consideration given to a viewpoint that is totally inconsistent with the values we claim we stand for as a nation. As Americans, we need to take our hearts off of our sleeves about the Park51 community center and mosque complex and think - really think - about why principles matter.

Since when does the president of the United States have to watch his tongue when it comes to defending the very first amendment in what is known as the Bill of Rights? Since when has it become fashionable to discard the entire process by which we amend the U.S. Constitution, a procedure with which the members of Congress and the American people should be intimately familiar, in favor of a need to kowtow to the consensus of opinion about what inalienable rights Americans and legitimate organizations may or may not possess?

 

“We do not put the Bill of Rights…to a vote." Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

 

Although I am willing to bet, by the time tomorrow night’s cable news gabfests air, the narrative among the most vile and subversive of our right wing political opportunists will insist that it is “un-American” for the president of the United States to defend one of the most basic principles of the U.S. Constitution.

Newsflash to those who inhabit Bizzaroworld—the Constitution is in effect all the time, not just when you want it to be.  And the rest of us don’t have any reason at all to humor you until you get it. Because waiting on the American public to “build a consensus” about the law of the land, as all those ex-slaves in 1865 and their descendants discovered, can take a mighty, mighty long time.