I have a Dean
I wouldn’t blame anyone for being surprised to learn that I have a degree in conflict resolution, given my strident tone on the Cordoba House/Park51 controversy. I actually happen to agree with Dean that there is a place for dialogue between some of the people now opposed to the project and the project organisers. However I happen to think he’s mistaken when he suggested that another site would be a better idea.
Survivors of 9/11 who now oppose the project need to feel that they have been heard, and I think that an openness on the side of the project organisers to changing the construction site would go a long way towards facilitating constructive dialogue. That being said, the organisers should make it clear that they will yield only to principle, not to pressure. Without a reason like a violation of laws or legitimate traffic/safety concerns, “strong emotional reactions” alone are not sufficient.
Therefore I consider Dean’s suggestion to move the community centre for the sake of demonstrating good will, intention to build bridges, and consideration for the fears and concerns of the people who oppose the centre to be highly problematic.
Once again, the idea that the community centre is offensive makes no sense unless you accept the premise that Muslims in general share in the guilt of individual Muslims who do bad things.
Dean’s suggestion validates that ugly premise, thus privileging the needs and interests of the centre’s opponents; who by Dean’s appeal to emotion would apparently be spared the onus of having to argue from principle. During his interview with Keith Olbermann, Dean waves away any possibility of anti-Muslim bias by invoking “reasonable” and “decent” people. However even the views of nice people are not always free of bigotry.
If you allow opponents to avoid being confronted with the possibility that their position is infused with bigotry (which doesn’t make them evil people) then you lose, in my humble opinion, the real opportunity for a teachable moment – the chance to contemplate your motivations and reassess your position.