For one thing, the First Amendment isn't just a good idea and it isn't just the law of the land: it's also a way to live life. It's a recognition that we should respect when others speak and worship. Of course we can disagree loudly, but we should be engaging with ideas, not people. We should be trying to change minds and hearts. We should be happy to have a diversity of opinion and ideas, because that diversity gives us strength. The more ideas that we have to interact with and test, the more concepts we can encounter and incorporate into our body of knowledge, the more we can adapt to new situations.
But I also support mosques and peaceful Islamic worship and outreach near the World Trade Center because bigots don't like it.
And I'm not just referring to Christian bigots or Islamophobic bigots.
I'm also referring to the other side.
al Qaeda, after all, didn't try to take over the World Trade Center. They blew it up. Their goal wasn't to conquer: it was to destroy. They don't want Islam intermixing with our society: they want Islam to destroy and dominate all opposition.
A peaceful mosque, representing the best of Islam, preaching tolerance and love, preaching freedom and reason, right near the epicenter of an action that symbolically and physically represented the opposite of all of those things?
Oh, yeah, I want that.
America is a city on a hill for a reason. We may be flawed, but we have an optimism and a tolerance at our best that is infectious. America at its best says, "Hey, come here and we'll make you more rad". My Muslim neighbor can go to his mosque, practice fasting on Ramadan, and live the way he wants... and then we can have a barbecue (with halal options of course!), talk about Breaking Bad, listen to some sick rock music, and make fun of the newest flop that hit movie theaters.
This is a culture that is at its best when it is inclusive, diverse and forward-looking. As the poem goes, "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!" We take in everyone, we make sure they're safe and free, and we grow as a result. We recognize that freeing a new person from chains means that we get more free too.
Osama bin Laden may be dead, but I want every person who thinks like him to know, "No, civilization is better. Our civilization is so ludicrously sweet that we can take any religion, any education, any philosophy, and we can grind the best version of it out. Civilization beats barbarism, freedom beats oppression, love beats hate, peace beats violence, and there's nothing you can do to stop us, so suck it".