This is not an issue of religious tolerance but of common moral sense. To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.
Sarah Palin likes her “stab in the heart” metaphor enough to carry it over into Facebook from her notorious “refudiate” tweet. For a student of history, “stab in the heart” can’t help but bring to mind “stab in the back” and another era’s xenophobic demagogy, but I wouldn’t accuse Palin of being a student of history.
The sheer emotionalism of her post – along with the usual character assassination games against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – generates the predictable response from her commenters: “Where better for Islamic radicals to rally their demons to commit more murder and mayhem against America! I urge all Americans to come against this blasphemous project and for New York City residents to remember this treasoness [sic and !] act by their despicable mayor come the next election. ” “This is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles not a Moslum [sic] nation. Our biggest problem is our use of the term tolerance and its context in America.” “THROW ALL THE BASTARDS OUT!” And on and on.
Real nice bunch of “friends” you’ve got there, Governor. And a really impressive reaction you’ve stirred up: It’s the natural result of a politics that relies on emotional authenticity above all else.
“Stab in the heart” is the kind of nonsense that once upon a time conservatives would have automatically rejected, and that they will still automatically reject whenever it happens to conflict with one or another element of their platform. Lack of health coverage: A stab in the heart for liberals. War in Iraq and Afghanistan: A stab in the heart for pacifists. Racist signs and racially insensitive rhetoric at Tea Parties: A stab in the heart for members and friends of the NAACP. “Common moral sense” is no better standard. No one should need to recount all of the notions that once upon a time stood for “common moral sense,” but that Palin and her followers – even Palin and her followers – would immediately reject.
Someday, Palin may hope to move to the center, but she is coming to stand for reactionary rightwing culture at its ugliest. It’s not anyone else “making things up”: She’s doing this all by herself. Like a certain kind of anti-immigration politics, like a certain style of opposition to ObamaCare and to Obama himself, and like a range of other stances that may currently seem popular, they are (re-)solidifying an image of the American right that it may take generations to break back down: The more this kind of thing achieves for Palin conservatives now, the more that they, most of all, may someday come to regret it.