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Rights and Wisdom

President Obama was pilloried by the conservative press over the weekend for two remarks he made concerning the proposed "mosque at ground zero."

On the one hand, the President said the Muslims have a right, like any other religious group, to build a house of worship on private property, even if that property is in lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 murders.

Following on that, in an informal response to journalists, the President insisted he was only commenting on a question of rights, not wisdom. He emphatically stated, in fact, that he was not and would not comment on the wisdom of such a project.

Which makes me wonder, Why not?

There are only two reasons. The first is that the President assumes that such a statement of conviction - even if only his personal one - would be politically unwise. I don't think this is the reason. After all, most Americans are opposed to the building of this mosque, and it could only help the President's polls to be seen identifying - at last! - with a position held by the majority of Americans.

The other reason is the more likely one: the President simply doesn't know whether or not this is a wise action. How could he? After all, it seems perfectly wise to those who are intending it, as well as a good many New York public officials. Who is the President to weigh in on such a matter, as if he might have some wisdom either to add or question that which is already being pursued?

Wisdom, you see, has, like every other principle, become so subject to relativistic and pragmatic notions that no one can speak of wisdom in anything other than a local way. There are no absolute standards of wisdom by which anybody can know anything for sure. We just have to let people follow their best hunches and hope for the best.

Wisdom, it seems, has gone the way of truth in America - it's all in the mind of the individual. That view promises to sow more confusion and division in the republic than sound judgment.

It also cannot help, eventually, to threaten the meaning of "rights."

T. M. Moore
T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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