A Brief Study of Minority Purchasing Power


I was having a debate with some people today about Donald Sterling and Larry Johnson.  As some of you may know, Don Sterling is the NBA Basketball franchise owner who made racist comments about Black Americans, causing a storm and debate about institutionalized racism.

 

Larry Johnson is a former NBA basketball player who came out advocating for a Black owned basketball league in response to the perceived institutionalized racism.  Of course, of the 192 NBA (Basketball), NFL (Football), and MLB (Baseball teams), only 3 are owned by minorities (2 Indian, 1 Black – Michael Jordan).

 

So the argument was that more teams should be owned by Black owners.  The debate ended up at a point where someone spoke out in support of a Black owned league, and how Black Purchasing Power was enormous and should command more respect.  And that Black Americans, as a significantly large purchasing power, should be producers as well as consumers.

 

So I decided to do some research and found the following article showing that the claim was true, that Black Purchasing Power was indeed impressive.  (Source:  Huffington Post)

 

However, after further research, I realized that while this was true, it wasn’t actually a positive for the Black community, as we need to put it in perspective of population size, income, and other factors to get a real picture where Blacks spending was indeed a positive and a negative.

 

In fact, as a result of my research, I came to an alarming conclusion, that Blacks may account for an enormous purchasing power, but that didn’t necessarily translate into the right expenditures or investments.  Please read my response and research below, and feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.

 

My Response:

 

You’re right about Black Purchasing Power, but it’s not something to be proud of.  If anything, Black Purchasing Power is part of the root causes why Blacks are consumers rather than producers.  There is an article I read about how it’s concerning that 13% of the population is making 30% of the purchases (Source: Politic365), and how Black Americans are not saving the money or investing it.

 

To put this in perspective, Asians represent only 5.4 % of the population, and their buying power is 9% (Asian buying power grew the fastest in last decade, by 164%, Native Americans at 156%, Hispanics at 142%, Blacks at 73%, and the US as a whole at 69 %).  Hispanics represent 17% of the population, but their buying power is at 10%.  Native Americans comprise 1.3% of the population, and account for 1% of the buying power.  (Source:  The Multicultural Economy 2012 at the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.)

 

What this means is that by comparison, is that Blacks are spending more (more than double their population size).  Now that wouldn’t be alarming, if it weren’t for the fact that African Americans rank the lowest in median income.  A 2009 stat (couldn’t find anything more recent, but I doubt there are drastic changes in a 3 year period).

 

2009 Annual Income by Race (Source: Census):
All Familes $60,088
White $62,545
Black $38,409
Asian $75,027
Hispanic $39,730

 

So if you consider the above numbers, Blacks median income is nearly half to two-thirds that of Asians and Whites, and nearly equal to Hispanics.  But they spend nearly three times that of Asians and Hispanic.  In fact, you could combined the Hispanic and Asian populations (17% + 5.4% = 22.4%, or double that of Blacks, but they still spend two thirds that of Blacks).

 

So yes, Blacks have more buying power, but they’re not saving it, which means they’re not putting money away to start up business, and as long as they do that, they will continue to be consumers, not producers, and thus having less of a say as to how businesses treat Blacks.

 

To add additional perspective, figures from the Census in 2007 showed the following facts (2012 figures are not in yet, Source: Census):
There were 1.9 million Black owned businesses.  In comparison there were 1.9 Asian-owned businesses (even though they had one third the population of Blacks), and Hispanics had 2.3 million businesses.  Women owned 7.8 businesses.

 

In terms of revenue, Black businesses made $137.4 Billion, compared to $513.9 Billion by Asians (nearly four times that of Blacks), $34.5 Billion by Native Americans (1/13th of Black population but making 1/3 revenues of Black businesses), and $345.2 Billion by Hispanics.

 

So you can see from these figures, despite making less revenue and income, Blacks are spending nearly 2.3 times more than the other races, and if you combine the population of the Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans (23.7% or nearly one quarter of the US population), they still spend less at 20% than Blacks are spending at 30%.  That’s alarming, and a big reason why Blacks are consumers and not producers.  Without savings and investments, how can you ever hope to own the businesses that produce?

Israeli Girl, 8, at Center of Tension Over Religious Ex ...

From The New York Times:

Israeli Girl, 8, at Center of Tension Over Religious Extremism

By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: December 27, 2011
 

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — The latest battleground in Israel’s struggle over religious extremism covers little more than a square mile of this Jewish city situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and it has the unexpected public face of a blond, bespectacled second-grade girl.

Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of observant Orthodox Jews, has been spat on and otherwise insulted by ultra-Orthodox men and boys on her way to school because her modest dress did not adhere to their standards.

She is Naama Margolese, 8, the daughter of American immigrants who are observant modern Orthodox Jews. An Israeli weekend television program told the story of how Naama had become terrified of walking to her elementary school here after ultra-Orthodox men spit on her, insulted her and called her a prostitute because her modest dress did not adhere exactly to their more rigorous dress code.

The country was outraged. Naama’s picture has appeared on the front pages of all the major Israeli newspapers. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that “Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state” and pledged that “the public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all,” there have been days of confrontation at focal points of friction here.

Ultra-Orthodox men and boys from the most stringent sects have hurled rocks and eggs at the police and journalists, shouting “Nazis” at the security forces and assailing female reporters with epithets like “shikse,” a derogatory Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman or girl, and “whore.” Jews of varying degrees of orthodoxy and secularity headed to Beit Shemesh on Tuesday evening to join local residents in a protest numbering in the thousands against religious violence and fanaticism.

For many Israelis, this is not a fight over one little girl’s walk to school. It is a struggle that could shape the future character and soul of the country, against ultra-Orthodox zealots who have been increasingly encroaching on the public sphere with their strict interpretation of modesty rules, enforcing gender segregation and the exclusion of women.

The battle has broadened and grown increasingly visible in recent weeks and months. Orthodox male soldiers walked out of a ceremony where female soldiers were singing, adhering to what they consider to be a religious prohibition against hearing a woman’s voice; women have been challenging the seating arrangements on strictly “kosher” buses serving ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and some inter-city routes, where female passengers are expected to sit at the back.

The virulent coercion in Beit Shemesh has been attributed mainly to a group of several hundred ultra-Orthodox extremists who came here from Jerusalem, known as the Sicarii, or daggermen, after a violent and stealthy faction of Jews who tried to expel the Romans in the decades before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Religious extremism is hardly new to Israel, but the Sicarii and their bullying ilk push with a bold vigor that has yet to be fully explained. Certainly, Israel’s coalition politics have allowed the ultra-Orthodox parties to wield disproportionate power beyond the roughly 10 percent of the population they currently represent.

The ultra-Orthodox community’s rapidly increasing numbers — thanks to extraordinarily high birthrates — may also have emboldened the hard core, as may have their insular neighborhoods. And their leadership appears to lack moderating brakes.

In any case, the extremists have provoked an outpouring of opposition from all those who are more flexible, be they ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, mainstream or secular. In fact, it was an ultra-Orthodox-led group that claimed at least part of the credit for making Naama’s story public.

“We are working to save our city and to save our homes,” said Dov Lipman, 40, a local activist, rabbi and self-defined modern ultra-Orthodox, who moved to Beit Shemesh from Silver Spring, Md., seven years ago. Seizing on the public mood of rejecting ultra-Orthodox bullying, Mr. Lipman and a group of supporters have been lobbying the Israeli Parliament, organizing protests and recently hired a media consultant. He said that is how Naama’s story came out.

Built near the ruins of an ancient city of that name mentioned in the Bible, Beit Shemesh was established in 1950, first drawing mostly poor immigrants from North Africa, then immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and English-speaking countries. With the construction of the new neighborhoods of Ramat Beit Shemesh A and B in the 1990s, the ultra-Orthodox population boomed. Residents say 20,000 more planned housing units are earmarked for the ultra-Orthodox.

In Ramat Beit Shemesh B, signs on the walls of buildings call for modesty, exhorting women and girls to dress in buttoned-up, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Outside a synagogue on Hazon Ish Street in the Kirya ha-Haredit quarter, a sign requested that females should cross to the opposite sidewalk and certainly not tarry outside the building.

Naama’s school, Orot, opened in September in an area with a large community of English-speaking observant Jews that borders on the strictest ultra-orthodox neighborhoods. She quickly found she had to run a miserable gantlet to get to school, even dressed in long sleeves and long skirts.

Riots broke out on Monday when the police accompanied media crews into Hazon Ish Street, the area where Naama’s tormentors are believed to have come from. Hundreds of black-garbed men and boys poured out of the synagogue and an adjacent seminary holding handwritten signs calling for the exclusion of women, illustrated with the male and female symbols used for public washrooms. One policeman was injured after being hit in the head with a rock and several arrests were made before the crowds dispersed at dusk.

Many of the ultra-Orthodox agitators blamed the news media for the unrest, saying they had come into the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to sow hatred and to persecute the residents for their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, some residents insisted that Beit Shemesh was a tolerant city, but defended at least some gender separation and modesty on religious grounds.

“I think women are very poorly treated in Western society,” said Cindy Feder, 57, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh A, who came to Israel from New York in 1970, and who defines herself as an “open haredi,” the Hebrew term for ultra-Orthodox. She said that the objectification of women on some billboards made her feel sick.

In the more austere Ramat Beit Shemesh B, a 32-year-old mother of four defended the gender separation on public transportation, saying that it was necessary to preserve women’s honor on crowded buses that squeezed people like “tomato puree.”

But the woman, who gave only her first name, Rivka, for fear of provoking the disapproval of her neighbors, also told a story that revealed the costs of separation: one night, the extremists came and removed all the public benches from the neighborhood, so that the women could no longer sit outside with their children in the street.

New York Approves Gay Marriages, Will Others Follow Sui ...

In a move that should have happened years ago, gay marriage was officially legalized in the the state of New York, who becomes the sixth state to legalize it.  Late, but as some say, it’s better late than never.  What makes New York stand out, is that it is the largest state to date to legalize gay marriage.  It’s a victory because New York, despite being a Democrat stronghold for years, has also had a conservative outlook on many issues, so this victory provides a brighter outlook for gay rights.  If New York can do it, other more liberal states can definitely do it.

The vote caps a mixed year for gay marriage in state legislatures. New York was the only state to approve same-sex marriages. Three states — Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois — voted to allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, which afford many of the same benefits as marriage. Although gay groups consider civil unions a positive step, they say it falls short of the true legal and symbolic equality that the term “marriage” carries with it.

In Minnesota, lawmakers decided to place a measure on the 2012 ballot asking voters to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Voters have supported such language in all 31 states that have put that question on the ballot. However, with public opinion shifting, according to several recent polls, and with Minnesota’s liberal tilt, advocates hope it will be their first opportunity to defeat such a ballot initiative.

A similar initiative passed in California in 2008. However, in a major victory for the pro-gay-marriage movement, a federal judge last year overturned that law and called into question the constitutionality of such ballot measures. The issue is widely expected to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Washington Post poll in March showed that a slim majority of Americans support gay marriage, a dramatic rise from just five years ago.

In New York, a series of actors, singers, professional athletes and politicians, including New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and former president Bill Clinton had urged the legislature to pass the bill.... And it was a Democrat, Sen. Ruben Diaz Jr., who spoke most passionately against same-sex marriage. Diaz noted that the same bill failed two years ago when both chambers were controlled by Democrats…. New York and Maryland highlight recent fissures that have emerged in the debate over gay marriage. As more and more Republicans warm up to the idea, it has been Democrats — most visibly, those who hail from black and Latino Christian communities — who have stood in the way.

In a twist of fate, it was a member of the traditional proponents of gay rights, a Democrat, who spoke loudly against the gay marriage will, and it was Republicans switching aisles to provide enough votes to make this happen.  Ironically, in spite of this victory, President Obama has remained quiet, despite his party’s strong support for gay rights.

“Speaking to the Democratic Party’s LGBT Leadership Council at a fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Obama ran through the many efforts he has made on behalf of gay rights, including his decision to end the government’s legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The act should be repealed, he said, since marriage is defined by the states.

Mr. Obama’s legal formula suggests he is fine with the six states that now permit same-sex marriage, and fine with the more than three dozen other states that ban it. By refusing to say whether he supports it (as he did in 1996) or opposes it (as he did in 2008), he remained in a straddle that will soon strain public patience. For now, all Mr. Obama promised was a gauzy new “chapter” in the story if he is re-elected, and his views remain officially “evolving.”

Fundamental equality, however, is hardly the equivalent of a liquor law that can vary on opposite sides of a state line. Why is Mr. Obama so reluctant to say the words that could lend strength to a national effort now backed by a majority of Americans?

In the 2008 campaign, when Mr. Obama said he supported civil unions and believed marriage should be between men and women, he may have wanted to appeal to slightly more conservative voters who were wary of him.

After he took office, it became evident that Republicans intended to portray him as a radical, out-of-touch leftist no matter what he did. Supporting same-sex marriage at this point is hardly going to change that drumbeat, and any voter for whom that is a make-or-break issue will probably not be an Obama supporter anyway.

Firm support for gay marriage is, on the other hand, likely to help him among his cheerless base. Mr. Obama opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and is presiding over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He signed the United Nations declaration on gay rights, and allowed the Census to count same-sex relationships. But he has been absent from the biggest and most difficult drive of all.

The passage of the gay marriage bill was met with much rejoicing and celebrating, both in New York, and nationwide.  Especially happy was actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has been awaiting this day for over five years:

Now that gay marriage is legal in New York, actor Neil Patrick Harris says he’s ready to tie the knot with his longtime partner, Michigan native and University of Michigan grad David Burtka.

“David and I did propose to each other, but over five years ago!” Harris, 38, tweeted over the weekend, according to people com. “We’ve been wearing engagement rings for ages, waiting for an available date.”

Harris, star of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” was one of the many New Yorkers celebrating Friday when news arrived that a bill legalizing same-sex marriage had won approval of state lawmakers.

“It PASSED!” he tweeted Friday night. “Marriage equality in NY!! Yes!! Progress!!”

Of course, it’s not just the gay community that is excited by the news of legalized marriage.  Divorce lawyers may be looking at the law as an opportunity, as gay marriages will likely face the same challenges heterosexual marriages do, and some will likely end in divorce.

It is worth pointing out that the two most prominent politicians in the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York want nothing to do with marriage. For themselves, anyway.

Both of them, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, have generally treated matrimony as if it were the worst idea since the Edsel….The mayor and the governor…were each married once. Each was divorced…Still, the governor and the mayor stand as object lessons to gay men and lesbians contemplating marriage. Couples can, and do, break up. Just as city and town clerks anticipate a surge in applications for same-sex wedding licenses once the new law goes into effect in late July, and just as businesses like florists and caterers expect to benefit, divorce lawyers assume that, in time, they will have more clients.

“There’s a demographic pool that never existed before,” said Raoul Felder, the prominent divorce lawyer. Mr. Felder said this not with hands-rubbed-together glee but, rather, as statement of reality. A colleague in his Manhattan law firm, Bettina D. Hindin, had her own sober assessment. “I may be a divorce lawyer,” Ms. Hindin said, “but I don’t hope for the demise of marriages.” All the same, she added, “in coming weeks we’re going to be reading and parsing through everything” to understand the new law’s implications for divorce.

Several matrimonial lawyers said in interviews that broadly speaking, the rules should be the same for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. But there could be complications.

Let’s suppose, Ms. Hindin said, that one woman in a lesbian marriage has a baby, through whatever means. If the other woman does not legally adopt the child, there may be questions about her rights and obligations to that child should the marriage end.

Where to get divorced is another issue, one that has already arisen in other states where marriage equality exists. If a gay couple marry in New York, then move to a state that forbids such unions, they may find they are unable to divorce in that state, the reasoning there being: How can we dissolve a marriage that we never recognized in the first place?….Then again, the fact that plenty of gay couples have already been together for years suggests to some lawyers that divorce may not be a dominant issue.

“A lot of divorces occur because people didn’t know each other that well,” said one divorce lawyer, who had reasons to have his request for anonymity honored. “A lot of gay couples have been together for a lot longer than straight couples before they get married. They’re less likely to get divorced, because they know each other better.”

And yet, others are not so enthusiastic about the new measure.  As expected, the Church is taking a stand against gay marriage, with Timothy Dolan, the Archibishop of New York, stating that while he loves the gay community, he is against the institution of gay marriage.

While expressing sadness and disappointment that New York will indeed become the 6th and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, Archbishop Dolan did apologize to the gay community, saying his opposition was based on a pro-marriage stance, not an anti-gay bias.

“I say to the gay community, I love you very much,” Archbishop Dolan proclaimed. “If anything I ever said or did would have you believe I have anything less than love and respect for you, I apologize.”

Some demonstrators outside the Cathedral were receptive to the Archbishop’s remarks. “We’re always open for dialogue and we’d like to see them support us, because we are in the Catholic Church, we are members of the Catholic faith,” said Lewis Tanner of a group called Dignity USA.
Others were not so diplomatic with the decision, claiming that the passage of the New York law legalizing gay marriage was a “cold slap” in the face of god.

The passage of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry by the state Senate on Friday, in fact, should leave Christians grieving – grieving that “our God has been offended, … that a lifestyle has had a stamp of approval put on it by our government in Albany that really is an extremely dangerous lifestyle,” said Pastor Art Kohl of Faith Bible Baptist Church….Speaking from the pulpit of his independent Baptist church, Kohl lamented, “What has happened in Albany this week … was not only an affront to me but it was also an affront to a holy God.”

“It was a cold, hard slap [in] God’s face by the assembly men and women in Albany who voted for it and the senators,” he stated plainly. “They spit in the very face of a holy God who alone can define what marriage is.”  Kohl prefaced his sermon with a note that Christians should not hate anyone…With the approval of gay marriage in his state, the Baptist pastor is even more convinced that the end of the world is drawing near.

“The events of Friday night grieved my heart but strengthened my faith in biblical prophecy because our Lord said it would be like this just before he comes,” he preached….“What happened in New York this week could just be anecdotal. I’m not trying to promote … that we interpret the Bible from a New Yorker’s perspective but certainly New York has become like a Sodom and Gomorrah ….What Kohl isn’t confused about, however, is what will happen as a result of the approval of gay marriage. Despite the provision of religious protections, Kohl is convinced that the consequences “are going to be horrific.”

“Already, there have been great warnings about discrimination lawsuits in New York state,” he lamented. “Any conservative or Christian business man or woman who should object on the grounds of their religion to provide services is setting themselves up for discrimination lawsuits.”

 Michele Bachmann, a Republican presidential candidate, was quick to make her own comments, stating that if she were president,  she would seek a constitutional amendment to define marriage as an union between a man and woman.  She further stated that it should not be in the courts to decide what is or isn’t marriage.  She acknowledged that getting an amendment to pass would be difficult, but one has to wonder why she would put so much energy to pass a bill preventing the right of marriage when the nation has bigger issues, such as the economy and large number of jobless in the country.

Despite the positions of those against gay marriage, it would seem more and more Americans are accepting of the idea of gay marriage.  And many supportive of gay marriage rights are optimistic that the victory in New York, once thought unlikely to pass such a measure, is a sign that mainstream America is ready and accepting of the idea of gay marriages.  New York’ may very well be the beacon that lights the way for other states to allow gay marriage, and other states may follow suit.  It is without doubt that New York’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act may have national implications.   It’s been long overdue, but better late than never.

Gay Marriage – A Civil Right Or Just Not Right?

Wedding BandsIt seems so long ago, ancient practically to most Americans, that interracial relationships were forbidden.  Back in June 1958, a black woman named Mildred Jeter and a white man named Richard Loving went to the District of Columbia to get married.  The decision to do so was spurred by the need to circumvent a Virginia law, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  When they returned to Virginia, they were arrested, charged, and found guilty.  Cue to March 17, 1994, where Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriages.  Thousands flocked to Massachusetts to submit applications for marriage licenses.  Within a year, 6,200 gay couples had been married.  Despite that, the federal government refused to recognize those marriages, despite the fact that most states recognized those out of state marriages.

There is a similarity in both events.  In both cases, couples were denied a fundamental right, the right to marriage.  In both cases, the perceptions of the nation were not supportive of a marriage that differed from the traditional view of marriage.  In 1958, the view of marriage was one between couples of the same racial backgrounds, although there were interracial relationships in existence, unheard of only decades earlier.  And yet, the notion of traditional marriages was being challenged.  The idea of a black woman and white man marrying was shocking to a conservative southern state like Virginia.  Jeter and Loving decided to challenge that view, and in June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court issued the following decision:

“There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.  We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.”

Now over 50 years later, the nation faces the same question, and possibly the same turning point, that faced the nation when Jeter and Loving challenged the traditional values of marriage.  The “traditional” value and perceptions of marriage are no longer based on race, but based on the idea that marriage occurs only between a man and a woman.   That view is now being challenged, even though that definition was only legally defined fourteen years ago, on September 21, 1996, when the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) defined marriage:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, February 24th, reported:

An Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll conducted last August found 52 percent of Americans saying the federal government should give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex, while 46 percent said it should not.

In polling by ABC News and The Washington Post, support for the legalization of gay marriage climbed from 37 percent in 2003 to 47 percent in February 2010.  A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in September found 43 percent of those surveyed favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and 47 percent opposed it — the highest support for same-sex marriage in the center’s polling back to 1996. The poll showed wide partisan divisions: 55 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents favored same-sex marriage, but only 21 percent of Republicans.

It was only on December 15, 2010, that President Barack Obama signed a bill repealing the military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  For the first time in nearly two decades, the servicemen and women of the Unite States military would no longer need to hide their sexual orientation.  Men and women who put their lives in harm’s way to defend, and die for, our country, would no longer need to do so while denying their identity.  In fact, Dick Polman of NewsWorks suggests that the passing of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” shows that the country is not entirely against same sex marriages, as they were nearly fifteen years earlier:

The bottom line is, most Republicans seem to understand that they can no longer get politician traction by going after gays. Some GOP lawmakers even voted with Democrats in December to permit gays to serve openly in the military, and Obama has suffered no backlash since. Indeed, the muted response to the demise of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has clearly emboldened the White House to take the next step and abandon its legal support for DOMA.

And it seems to be happening not just at the federal level, but at the state level as well.  Since Massachusetts passed the law legalizing gay marriages, four more states have passed similar laws, in Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  And just last week, Hawaii joined six other states in recognizing civil unions or broad domestic partnerships (California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington).  And only two days ago, Maryland’s State Senate gave preliminary approval for a bill that will allow gay marriages, which would make it the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.

Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker offers some interesting arguments of why Obama’s decision to stop defending DoMA may force courts to review cases involving gay marriage with the same scrutiny once applied to cases involving minority rights:

….It’s very unusual for any Administration to refuse to defend the constitutionality of a law that is already on the books….the letter raises an even more important…position that “classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny.” This may sound like legal mumbo jumbo, but it’s crucial….in 1938, Justice Harlan Stone said that the Courts should give greater scrutiny to one category of laws: those that affect minorities. In real terms, that meant that if a law treated a racial minority differently from other people, the Court would apply what became known as “strict scrutiny” and almost always declare it unconstitutional. In the nineteen-seventies, the Court started ruling on laws that treated women differently. The Court said that these laws wouldn’t receive strict scrutiny (like racial laws), but still “heightened scrutiny” (rather than, in legal lingo, a “rational basis” test). In real terms, that has meant that the Court has now also struck down most laws that treat women differently….Under the heightened-scrutiny test, …there is no justification for DOMA, so it is unconstitutional. (DOMA says that the federal government will not treat gay people who are legally married in their states as married people under federal law. So a married same-sex couple in Massachusetts is not treated as married under, for example, the Internal Revenue Code.)….if a Court would apply heightened scrutiny to the ban on same-sex marriage, there is no way that it would be upheld…

 All in all, Obama’s decision creates an interesting dilemma for the conservatives, as the foundations of federal and state law against gay marriage are slowly eroding.  It may very well mean that the one of the final groups of “minorities will finally gain recognition of their identity and their rights.  Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘”In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  And yet, it seems he forgot to add a third certainty… change.  And yet, the arguments against change, and gay marriage, are that it destroys the foundation of marriage, family values, and religious freedoms.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative organization, states on their website:

The homosexual legal agenda is one of the greatest threats to religious freedom in America today. For decades, radical activists, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies, have tried to divorce America from its Christian heritage and values. Their strategy is twofold: dilute moral values so that homosexual behavior is thought to be normal, natural, and good, while suppressing the religious and free speech rights of those who disagree. If they successfully impose their radical legal agenda, then all people especially Christians who do not affirm homosexual behavior could be silenced, punished, and possibly even jailed for so-called discrimination and intolerance.

Christians know that marriage was created by God as the union between one man and one woman. And from this sacred institution comes the natural family, which is the building block of society and the most favorable environment for children. In spite of this, advocates for same-sex “marriage” demand that their behavior be normalized, treated the same as a marriage, and promoted by law. Should such laws take effect across the nation, then religious liberty as Ms. Feldblum points out must give way to the new laws protecting same-sex “marriages.” This is not merely a theory. For example, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court fabricated a right to same-sex “marriage,” Catholic Charities was presented with the choice: either allow same-sex couples to adopt, or close their doors. Rather than compromise its core beliefs, that organization chose the latter.

As many ADF cases show, Christian views on marriage and human sexuality will be challenged if same-sex “marriage” is accepted by law. If this happens and God’s plan for marriage is dismantled, then your religious freedom and the God-given, constitutionally protected rights that enable you to freely live out your faith will virtually collapse….In a dangerous decision that could ultimately threaten your religious freedom, the federal judge ruled that California’s voter-approved constitutional amendment protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman was unconstitutional. But, despite this disappointing ruling, the battle is far from over….the final outcome could have serious implications for marriage and religious freedom not only in California, but in all 50 states. This is exactly what these radical activists want to take away the people’s right to express their will regarding the future of marriage. The greatest risk will be to the 45 states where citizens have already established laws or constitutional amendments that preserve religious freedom by keeping the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Who is right?  Are the conservative arguments for the protection of the institution of marriage valid, or do gay couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples?  Will a decision like Loving v. Virginia come to be, and make gay marriages a normal part of our lives in time?  Or will it lead to greater erosion of family values and the further redefining of what marriage is?

US Military Open To Gay Soldiers?

It didn’t seem so long ago that a court ruled that gay marriages be allowed.  It was in August to be exact.   The presiding judge wrote on simple sentence that will hopefully someday have profound impact upon America.

“The evidence presented at trial and the position of representatives of the state of California show that an injunction against enforcement of Proposition 8 is in the public’s interest.”

In many ways, it is a reminder of a line from the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation address by President Abraham Lincoln:

“And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.”

The gay community is no longer an unknown or a mystery, with many well known celebrities that have shown their pride, including Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Rosie O’Donnell.  They are human beings like us, and do not deserve to be treated as second class citizens, much like minorities were treated in the ’60s.

It seems fitting that the line from the Emancipation Proclamation refers to a military necessity for the proclamation.  The military of today faces a crisis in terms of meeting recruitment quotas to fill the needs of the military, with more young men and women disillusioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Others have become aware that enjoying a free education while serving in the National Guard requires payment, the price being active duty service as needed.

With a need to fill recruitment goals, why are a segment of the population being turned away, on the basis of sexual orientation.  Men and women in the military are about as likely, if not more likely, to be assaulted sexual by the opposite sex than they are to be assaulted by someone of the opposite sex.

Ultimately, gay soldiers are not going to climb into your bunk or foxhole and rape you.  Can it happen?  Of course, it has happened to heterosexuals. Does that mean we need to ban heterosexual men and women from the service?  When people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or race, are willing to put their lives at risk to defense our country, what right have we to take that privilege away from them?

It reminds me of a quote from Glory, where Denzel Washington’s character, a soldier in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment , states “A black soldier can stop a bullet as good as a white soldier…”  The same truth goes for a gay soldier.  Soldiering is not for the faint of heart, and if a gay soldier has the courage and fortitude to risk life and limb to protect a country that won’t accept them, they deserve our respect.

Main Image(Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AT4RW20101130)

A recent study conducted by the Pentagon found that most in the military do not mind gays serving amonst them, and that they do not feel threatened.

The Pentagon unveiled a study on Tuesday that predicted little impact if the U.S. military ended its ban on gays, bolstering President Barack Obama’s push to get Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by year-end….At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the military since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allows gays to serve in the armed forces as long as they keep their sexual orientation private, came into force in 1993….The study dismissed as exaggerated notions that ending the ban would lead to overt promiscuity, widespread “effeminacy” among men and “unwelcome advances.” It also opposed separate living quarters or bathrooms for gay or lesbian troops, a possibility raised in the past by some in the U.S. military.

 The Pentagon report continued discussing concerns and implications of repealing the ban, and citing concerns:

(Reuters) – A majority of the U.S. military does not object to lifting the ban on gays serving openly in uniform, except for predominantly male combat units which show greater resistance to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a Pentagon study said Tuesday.

It could have a significant impact on President Barack Obama’s push for Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by year-end.  The policy, adopted in 1993, bars gays from openly serving in the military, but allows them to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private.  Following are some of the report’s key recommendations:

STANDARDS OF CONDUCT
Service members expressed concerns about conduct such as public displays of affection, dress, appearance, and violence, harassment, or disrespect between homosexual and heterosexual members.
“We do recommend … that the Department of Defense issue generalized guidance to the Services that all standards of personal and professional conduct must apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation.”

MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CONCERNS
A large number of service members raised religious and moral objections to homosexuality and some of the “most intense and sharpest divergence of views” were among the roughly 3,000 military chaplains.
The report concluded that Service members already co-exist, work and fight together, despite sharply different religious convictions and values such as on abortion.

UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE
“We recommend modification to the prohibition on sodomy in Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and a corresponding change to the Manual for Courts-Martial (which implements the UCMJ and provides rules, policies, and procedures for UCMJ prosecutions).”
“Article 125 of the UCMJ treats all acts of sodomy, heterosexual, homosexual, consensual, or otherwise, as punishable conduct.”

PRIVACY and COHABITATION
A number of Service members were uncomfortable about sharing bathroom facilities or living quarters with someone known to be gay or lesbian.

 A copy of the s can be found here in PDF format, Report on the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

A poll of the American public also found greater tolerence in their willingness to accept gays in the mliitary.

 Most Americans favor allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the U.S. military, a poll released on Monday by the Pew Research Center showed.   The poll findings are the latest to indicate public support for a repeal of the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from openly serving in the U.S. military and come a day before a long-awaited Pentagon report on the matter.

Of course, some in the government are not so eager to embrace a change that is long due.  Even Arizona Senator John McCain advocated caution, that the military may not be ready for this change.

A top Republican warned on Thursday it might be too soon to end the U.S. military’s ban on gays, as the party geared up to block President Barack Obama’s bid to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy this year.  “I am not saying this law should never change. I am simply saying that it may be premature to make such a change at this time, and in this manner,” said Senator John McCain, addressing the U.S. defense secretary and top military officer as they appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  McCain and some fellow Republicans on the committee also caste doubt on the conclusions and methodology of a Pentagon study released two days ago that predicted little impact if the 17-year-old policy were ended.

Is this true?  Are we truly not ready to show tolerence for those who are different?  After all, isn’t this country founded on the principle of tolerence?  Then again, the United States was virtually last in freeing slaves.  It should come as no surprise that other nations openly embrace gay soldiers amongst their ranks.   Some of the nations that allow gays to serve are Taiwan, Philippines, and South Korea, to name a few.

NEFF: The Defence Department working group report which was just released on Tuesday here, showed as well the republic of Korea, that South Korea was among the nations that also allowed openly gay service, and this is the Defence Department’s report on foreign military that it used to provide input to members of Congress about the way forward for the US.

LAM: What about Japan? I understand Japan has no rules applying to gay personnel, is that right?

NEFF: Japan and Singapore also fell into sort of an indeterminate or undetermined category for the Defence Department’s review and I think they are seeking further clarification there.

 Only time will tell if society and the military have reached a point where we can now accept gays equally within the Armed Forces. 

This article was simultaneously published with permission on both www.Military-Discussion.com and www.Issues-Today.com, as the topic is relevant to both websites.

Dial 911…? After Finishing Tweeting First…

Many of you may have heard the story about Kitty Genovese in 1964.  In case you haven’t, I’ve included the following excerpt that sums up the store.

For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

    Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

    That was two weeks ago today.

    Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough’s detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matter-of-fact recitation on many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him–not because it is a murder, but because the “good people” failed to call the police.

    “As we have reconstructed the crime,” he said, “the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now.”

    This is what the police say happened at 3:20 A.M. in the staid, middle-class, tree-lined Austin Street area:

    Twenty-eight-year-old Catherine Genovese, who was called Kitty by almost everyone in the neighborhood, was returning home from her job as manager of a bar in Hollis. She parked her red Fiat in a lot adjacent to the Kew Gardens Long Island Railroad Station, facing Mowbray Place. Like many residents of the neighborhood, she had parked there day after day  since her arrival from Connecticut a year ago, although the railroad frowns on the practice.

    She turned off the lights of her car, locked the door, and started to walk the 100 feet to the entrance of her apartment  at 82-70 Austin Street, which is in a Tudor building, with  stores in the first floor and apartments on the second.

    The entrance to the apartment is in the rear of the building  because the front is rented to retail stores. At night the quiet
neigborhood is shrouded in the slumbering darkness that  marks most residential areas.

    Miss Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the lot, near a  seven-story apartment house at 82-40 Austin Street. She  halted. Then, nervously, she headed up Austin Street toward  Lefferts Boulevard, where there is a call box to the 102nd Police Precinct in nearby Richmond Hill.

    She got as far as a street light in front of a bookstore before the man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-story apartment house at 82-67 Austin Street, which faces the bookstore. Windows slid open and voices punctuated the early-morning stillness.

     Miss Genovese screamed: “Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!”

     From one of the upper windows in the apartment house, a man called down: “Let that girl alone!”

    The assailant looked up at him, shrugged, and walked down Austin Street toward a white sedan parked a short distance
  away. Miss Genovese struggled to her feet.

     Lights went out. The killer returned to Miss Genovese, now trying to make her way around the side of the building by the
  parking lot to get to her apartment. The assailant stabbed her again.

    “I’m dying!” she shrieked. “I’m dying!”

    Windows were opened again, and lights went on in many apartments. The assailant got into his car and drove away. Miss Genovese staggered to her feet. A city bus, 0-10, the Lefferts Boulevard line to Kennedy International Airport, passed. It was 3:35 A.M.

    The assailant returned. By then, Miss Genovese had crawled to the back of the building, where the freshly painted brown
  doors to the apartment house held out hope for safety. The killer tried the first door; she wasn’t there. At the second door, 82-62 Austin Street, he saw her slumped on the floor at  the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her a third time–fatally.

    It was 3:50 by the time the police received their first call, from a man who was a neighbor of Miss Genovese. In two minutes they were at the scene. The neighbor, a 70-year-old woman, and another woman were the only persons on the street. Nobody else came forward.

    The man explained that he had called the police after much deliberation. He had phoned a friend in Nassau County for  advice and then he had crossed the roof of the building to the  apartment of the elderly woman to get her to make the call.

  “I didn’t want to get involved,” he sheepishly told police.

    Six days later, the police arrested Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old business machine operator, and charged him with homicide. Moseley had no previous record. He is married, has two children and owns a home at 133-19 Sutter Avenue, South Ozone Park, Queens. On Wednesday, a court committed him to Kings County Hospital for psychiatric observation.

    When questioned by the police, Moseley also said he had slain Mrs. Annie May Johnson, 24, of 146-12 133d Avenue, Jamaica, on Feb. 29 and Barbara Kralik, 15, of 174-17 140th Avenue, Springfield Gardens, last July. In  the Kralik case, the police are holding Alvin L. Mitchell, who is said to have confessed to that slaying.

    The police stressed how simple it would have been to have gotten in touch with them. “A phone call,” said one  of the detectives, “would have done it.” The police may  be reached by dialing “0″ for operator or SPring 7-3100.

    Today witnesses  from the   neighborhood, which is  made up of one-family  homes in the $35,000 to $60,000  range with the exception of the two  apartment houses near  the railroad  station, find it difficult to explain why  they didn’t call the police.

    A housewife, knowingly if quite casually, said, “We thought it was a lovers’ quarrel.” A husband and wife both said, “Frankly, we were afraid.” They seemed aware of the fact that events might have been different. A distraught woman, wiping her hands in her apron, said, “I didn’t want my husband to get involved.”

    One couple, now willing to talk about that night, said they heard the first screams. The husband looked thoughtfully at the bookstore where the killer first grabbed Miss Genovese.

    “We went to the window to see what was happening,” he  said, “but the light from our bedroom made it difficult to see the street.” The wife, still apprehensive, added: “I put out the light and we were able to see better.”

    Asked why they hadn’t called the police, she shrugged and replied: “I don’t know.”

    A man peeked out from a slight opening in the doorway to his  apartment and rattled off an  account of the killer’s second attack. Why hadn’t he called the police at the time? “I was tired,” he said without emotion. “I went back to bed.”

    It was 4:25 A.M. when the ambulance arrived to take the  body of Miss Genovese. It drove off. “Then,” a solemn police detective said, “the people came out.” 

 That was over forty five years ago.  And yet the same concerns exist even today.  But it’s not concern for safety that prevents some people from contacting help.  The culprit is actually social media.  A recent newspaper commentary discussed the case of Bill Nye the Science Guy, who apparently passed out during a show, and everyone in the audience begin to tweet about his passing out, but no one approached him to check on him or call for assistance.

My wife pointed me to an LA Times story a couple of days ago that made me cringe… The article recounted how TV personality Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) suddenly passed out while speaking at USC. While this caused a tense moment, he appears to be okay now. However what incensed me was how the crowd reacted. Witnesses noted the crowd did nothing, they did not come to his aid, and they were of no help to Bill whatsoever. But the audience was oh-so quick to grab their phones and tweet/IM/Facebook about what they were watching. Therein lies the problem – they were watching, not acting. In today’s post I’m going to explore responsibility as it relates to social media – the responsibility that comes with living in the real world vs. a perpetual state of virtual reality.

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of social media. I use it personally and my company has a social media practice area which offers social media services to our clients. But when social media addiction takes precedence over common sense, over helping another human being, it may be time to reassess the world in which we live. Social tools, platforms and networks are meant to be conduits to broader and deeper relationships. The real benefit of social media is in improving how we interact not in creating barriers to engagement. The digital world is at its best when it brings us closer together and at its worst when moves us further apart.

 Is there a concern that social media like Facebook and Twitter are creating a disconnect in human society?  Some may wonder if the same response would have occured if it was clearly life threatening or a crime was occuring (since Bill Nye has been known to use dramatic flair in his presentation.  A CNN article tells the story of a New Jersey Pastor who recently asked 50 Church Elders to stop using Facebook or quit, after 20 couples experienced marriage difficulties due to adultery as a result of reconnecting with former exes on Facebook .  He continued by asking that members of his congreation also stop using Facebook, although it was not a demand.

A New Jersey pastor is asking married  members at his church to delete their Facebook accounts because he says it encourages adultery.

The Rev. Cedric Miller of Neptune  made the demand after 20 couples at his church ran into difficulties after a spouse reunited with an old love interest, the Los Angeles Times reported in an article.

The article, which quotes an Associated Press story, says Miller had asked married couples in his church to share their Facebook passwords with spouses, but couples still ran into problems.

Miller, pastor at the Living Word Christian Fellowship church, says he’s now demanding that 50 married church leaders delete their Facebook accounts or resign.

Anthea Butler, a columnist with Religion Dispatches magazine, says Miller is invoking an old theme in fundamentalist and conservative churches: that any new media – like movies, television and radio – is  sinful.

What is interesting to me is that the conservative Christian cry used to be stop watching porn on the internet, or  your kids would be pimped out on the internet by perverts. Now, social media has become the latest “sinful” activity.

Still, Butler in her column entitled, “Facebook: Internet Highway to Hell,” says she could sympathize with the pastor.

So I am not surprised that the pastor is demanding all of his leadership cease and desist from Facebook. After all, looking up an old flame or your teenage dream à la Katy Perry is just the first step down the road to perdition – especially if your home life isn’t exactly what it used to be.

Ironically, at the end of the CNN article was an option for readers to “Like” the article via Facebook’s “Like” function.  Is Social Media to blame for societal faults?  Did television and radio face the same challenges when they first became available?  I would hate to imagine the level of protests that will occur when Virtual Reality becomes a reality, and are actually used as tools to simulate the sesnse as shown in the movies “Demolition Man” and “Artificial Intelligence.”

Am I being alarmist?  Probably not, as Virtual Reality glasses for computer gaming is already on the market, and is likely to be a direction that the gaming and entertainment industry will head towards.  After all, six television manufacturers have announced the release of 3D televisions, that utilize 3D glasses.  And to top that, Toshiba has announced that it will soon be releasing a 3D television that does not require glasses.

It may not be long before virtual reality makes us forget to live, as suggested in the Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates.  Is technology de-humanizing us?  Or have we already been on this path already, as evidenced over forty five years ago, on the fatal day 38 people stood by and watched Kitty Genovese get attacked not once, twice, but three times in a 30 minute span.  And the call to police, which would have taken seconds to do, was only made after she had already been killed.

It seems we are the means of our own destruction.

Islamic Mosque To Open Near Ground Zero on 9/11

 

I heard some interesting news on the radio on my way to work today, about an 13-story Islamic mosque being build near Ground Zero, that was to be commemorated on September 11th this year.  As a New Yorker and an American, my initial reaction was of anger, confusion, and bewilderment.  Anger that anyone would suggest putting an Islamic mosque near the site where close to 3,000 people died at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Confusion that any city official would allow it to be built, much less approve commemorating it on the new day of infamy.  And bewilderment that the Muslim community would even think it was a good idea, and how they could think Americans would look at this as nothing more than a celebration of victory for Islamic extremists.

And as expected, the response from New Yorkers has been of outrage, despite the explanation “[w]e want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified…. We feel it’s an obligation as Muslims and Americans to be part of the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.”  However, some questioned this explanation, since there is no large resident Muslim population in downtown Manhattan.  Who would this mosque serve?  And is it a symbol of the fight against extremism, or a tribute to the short lived victory of the Islamic extremists who hijacked the planes that smashed into the World Trade Center towers.  It is almost ten years after the attack, and yet the wounds are still fresh for many.  Is commemorating the opening of an Islamic center on the ten year anniversary a tribute or insult to those who died in the tower?

Herbert Ouida lost his son in the attack on the towers, and has every reason to be against the project, but in contrast to the expected response, he has been supportive of the project,  declaring that to find the entire Islamic faith to be guilty because of the extremist views of a few is unfair and “racist.”  To a degree, I agree, and once my anger subsided, and rationality took over, I discovered that I also could be tolerant, although I am still a bit wary.  Will the center fulfill it’s mission and help the community at large?  Will it educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike of the end result of religious extremism not held in check?  Or would it eventually become a breeding ground for future terrorists like a mosque is allegedly producing in Minneapolis as reported in a video report by CBS News.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the Huffington Post stated that on his radio show “New Yorkers seem overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, comparing its insensitivity to the German government opening, say, a Bach appreciation museum right outside the Auschwitz death camp, or Toyota opening a car factory by the Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu.”  On the other hand, Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the mosque project, believes differently, stating “The complaint throughout the years has been: ‘Where’s the voice of the moderate Muslims? Well, here we are.”   Will the mosque bridge the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, or will it make it wider?  Or worst, will it become a recruiting ground for terrorist organizations seeking recruits raised in America, who understand Americans, and can blend in more easily, much like those who attacked the subway systems in London a few years back?

Where do I stand on this?  At first, as I indicated above, I was leaning towards anger, not at the Muslim population as a whole, just at the audacity of someone setting up home to the site of a national tragedy.  An Islamic mosque just two blocks from the site of a crime perpetuated by terrorists murdering people in the name of Islam, to me that was crude, and both an insult, and a jab in the eye of the western world.  A way to stick it to the famlies of the deceased and all Americans, a reminder of the pain and grief caused by a religion that has its origins from the time of the Prophet Mohammed leading the northern nomads in a holy jihad to subdue the cities of the south that he had once lived in, to force them to accept the message of Allah.  But then I began to realize something.  Is Islam so unique in being the only religion to inspire violence?  After all, there are Christians who kill abortion doctors and who called eight Crusades in the Middle East.  Or the Protestants and Catholics who fought a war in Ireland despite being from the same country, and Buddhist extremists who attack Christian churchs in Sri Lanka. Or the Jewish extremists who target Palestinians, and even kill their fellow Jews.

Maybe what they say is true, and there needs to be a place where Muslims can gather to learn that extremism is not the solution. But then again, all things man creates can also destroy as well. Nuclear power can provide a fairly clean source of energy, but it also has the power to destroy the world. The advances in medicine can provide cures, but the same research into genetics and viruses can also give rise to some of the most dangerous types of viruses and biological weapons. A hundred teachers can preach love at the mosque, but all it takes is one message of hate that gives them the false belief of courage and that they are doing something we all strive to find, a greater purpose, although in this case, it would be the illusion of serving their god. But if they are true to their word and purpose, maybe they can help guide Muslims on the right path, towards the tolerance that Muslims were once famous for when the rest of the world’s religions were prejudiced towards other religions.

But despite this hope and desire for a positive end result, one thing still doesn’t sit right with me me. Why commemorate the Islamic mosque on the tenth anniversary of the tragegy? Why not choose another day, even the day before or the day after, the commemorate the mosque? Why do it on the day of mourning? How would the Japanese react if the United States were to establish a church near the site where it dropped the nuclear bombs in World War II, to show Christian charity and for American? If it’s purpose is to unite us, why is it dividing the world instead in debate over its intentions? If you want unity, why is it a Muslim mosque and not a multi-functional place of worship, with representative spiritual leaders of each of the major religions, Muslim Imans, Buddhist monks, Jewish Rabbis, Catholic Priests, and so on. Unity is derived from differing peoples pursuing a common goal, and what greater goal could there be than all the major religions sharing a house of worship, to show that they stand united against the extremists of the world, be they Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, etc.

Then again, perhaps we should take Rabbi Boteach’s suggested solution instead:  “Let the Islamic Cultural Center be built. Let the mosque be included. But, the Muslim organizations building it should commit right now to making the principal focus of the building a museum depicting the rise of Islamic extremism, its hate-based agenda, and how it is an abomination to Islam. The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following. It would have exhibitions on some of the terrible atrocities committed by these Islamic fundamentalists, focusing specifically on the slaughter at Ground Zero on 9/11. The Islamic Center would have a major exhibition on the evil of Osama bin Laden, detailing his crimes against humanity and the number of innocent people he has killed. Most importantly, the museum would repudiate these haters by showing how their actions are an abomination to authentic Islamic teaching and how every G-d-fearing Muslim has a responsibility to spit them out.”

That’s not too much to ask, is it?