Radio talk show host Michael Medved got it right when he urged President Obama to “welcome conversation to replace confrontation” in the debate about plans to build a mosque in lower Manhattan near ground zero (the Park51 project).
“If leaders on all sides managed to address the dispute in a broader perspective, it ought to become obvious that Americans actually agree on both of the key issues in the debate,” Medved wrote in “Time for a Mosque Beer Summit?”
Issue one: Muslims have the right to harassment-free worship. Issue two: The proposed location is a lightening rod for America’s concern or fear surround Muslims. Medved asks, “What prevents the various parties to this battle from cutting through the multiple misrepresentations and misunderstandings to reach a meeting of the minds that would benefit everyone?”
That’s a good question, particularly since government officials including the likes of New York Gov. David Paterson has offered to help find a less controversial location for the mosque.
Sometimes a solution that seems so simple to third parties doesn’t even address the heart of a conflict. Many Americans are still angry about Sept. 11, 2001. Muslims don’t feel welcome in much of America, and holding on to one address in New York may be largely symbolic of their greater battle to win acceptance in this country. If any situation could use a good mediator, this is it.
When two sides become as entrenched as those we see here, they need to talk in a neutral setting with an accomplished mediator who has the capacity to recognize the emotions behind the conflict, to ensure that each party listens to and acknowledges his opponent’s position, then to help them move beyond to a workable solution. We call this a “win-win,” when both parties end up with what they essentially wanted in the first place.
It’s hard to get there, though, when people keep shouting at one another, clinging to their rights and refusing to come to the table where a meeting of the minds can occur.