Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just demonstrated that you can become a billionaire in America many times over, while being clueless about the country you live in.
To Bloomberg, if you oppose a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, you are indulging in religious bigotry and do not understand the Constitution. Here is the mayor explaining how the heroes of 9/11 died so that mosques might be built anywhere in New York City.
"On Sept. 11th, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, no one asked, "What god do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?' We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor those lives by defending those rights, and the freedoms those terrorists attacked."
The mayor appears to have plagiarized JFK's speech to the Houston ministers, where Kennedy defended a Catholic's right to run for president by invoking the heroic death of his brother Joe over the Channel.
But the issue here is not religious tolerance. There are a hundred mosques in New York City.
The issue here is the appalling insensitivity, if not calculated insult, of erecting a mosque two blocks from a World Trade Center where 3,000 Americans were massacred by Islamic fanatics whose Muslim religion was integral to their identity and mission.
It is no more religious bigotry to oppose the Ground Zero Mosque than it would have been religious bigotry to oppose building a Shinto shrine in 1950 on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, next to the Arizona.
To Americans, the land on which the twin towers stood is hallowed ground, a burial site made scared by the suffering and deaths of all who perished in the horrifying minutes those towers burned and fell.
There are many such sites in America. Lexington, Concord Bridge, Bunker Hill, Yorktown, the Alamo, Manassas -- where the first battle of the War Between the States was fought -- Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg.
When developers tried to build a mall next to the Manassas battlefield, many who had kinfolk who fought and died in that war blocked it, including Jody Powell, Jimmy Carter's press secretary.
They did not fight development because they opposed private enterprise, any more than those who blocked the licensing of a casino beside Gettysburg battlefield did so because they dislike gambling.