I rarely tell my parents this, but I am often very thankful for my upbringing. Do all people feel they were "raised right?" I don't know, but I am frequently thankful for the example of trusted family members, and for the experiences my parents gave to my sister and myself. My memory is full of formative experiences.
In one such memory is of a trip to Morocco with my sister, parents and aunt and uncle. I remember wandering around looking at the beautiful tile work near some sort of mosque. At the time I only barely understood what a mosque was; I was 6 or 7 years old. But I did know that the people who built the mosque were not the same religion as we were. Despite that, my mother's fascination with everything we saw helped to instill in me an appreciation for the beauty of inspired human accomplishments, no matter what inspired them.I credit that experience with strengthening self-awareness of subjective judgment. But, really, I thank my parents for allowing me to see more things by looking past certain obstacles that society installs in our brains.
This idea of an Islamic community center within blocks of the site known as "Ground Zero" has caused many to balk, to comment on the craziness of the modern world, to cry out with offense, and to claim insult.
Were the 9/11 attacks carried out by an entire religion? I think that if we begin to attribute the motives of some who call themselves religious to all who share their name, we have a lot of tiring work to do condemning people.
That said, people clearly are offended, insulted and hurt. Some of these people are folks I care about. Some ascribe nefarious motives to the builders of the center; they lament that some will interpret its existence as a sort of triumph. Those feelings are real. But what, in the end, is the consequence of them? That is a decision we must make between our desire to save our feelings and our desire to stand by American principles. Is it important to deprive some extremists a thing they will see as a symbol (when extremists snap their fingers, do we jump?) or is it important to show the majority of Muslim Americans that we really are a nation of laws and principles?
We do not have a right not to be offended or hurt. This is fortunate, even though we and our friends will be unhappy at times because of it. It's fortunate because the principles at stake are much more important than the whim of personal feelings, even if those feelings are strong and shared by many. An ability to see past feelings to principles makes us better than extremists and shows that we believe in our principles; we don't just spout them meaninglessly.
Some people risk their very lives and even die for these American principles. Others of us make a different sort of sacrifice when we bear the brunt of an offense in the name of a difficult to defend principle. Both are noble.