Here I go again...beyond irritated and completely baffled by something I read today in the New York Times. Some of you may remember the story of the piece of iron debris, shaped like a cross, that laborer Frank Silecchia, 47 discovered during the massive clean up effort in the aftermath of the attacks at the WTC site on 9/11. It is said that he cried for 20 minutes after it was uncovered and it became a symbol of hope and encouragement for the firefighters, police and construction workers who were charged with the dismal task of sifting through the unending piles of rubble. I always thought that it was nice that those guys were able to find something, anything, that could give them comfort and a feeling of solidarity during such a difficult and heartbreaking task.
But wait. Before you get all warm and fuzzy and start feeling like there might actually be something unifying and redeeming and special that can bring us human beings a reminder of how we all pulled together despite our differences at a difficult time in our country's history...enter some atheists. Here's the deal. Up until recently, the cross has been residing at a Catholic church near the WTC site. It has now been displayed in a place of honor as an artifact of special importance at the National September 11 Museum and Memorial. And, yep, you guessed it, a lawsuit has been filed because among other absurd and ridiculous claims; (no, I'm not making this up, you can read it for yourself...)
"there are four individual atheists named in the lawsuit, who are described as having suffered “dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish from the knowledge that they are made to feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack."
Really? Were they wearing magnetic sneakers the day they visited the museum that forcefully dragged them to the display and held them captive to look upon it while their retinas were being burned by the mere sight of it and were rendered helpless like Superman is to kryptonite and couldn't just choose to move along to another exhibit at the museum? Good grief. How can anyone 'make you feel officially excluded' at a museum that is open to everyone? If you decide to 'feel' excluded, that's on YOU.
The sense of self-centeredness and entitlement in this country has become ridiculous in my opinion. I'm sorry...it just has. It seems like practically everyone is personally offended or insulted about something or the other and wants to have everything their own way. 'I must have a voice,' they say. Well guess what? There are plenty of things that a normal, ordinary person like myself could get worked up about pretty frequently. Obviously, I'm offended right now. Most of the time, however, I just make the decision to not take things personally, mind my own business and not make a big deal about what I perceive to be other peoples' craziness and/or nonsense. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't have a bone to pick with atheists. I have no problem living and working side by side with anyone who treats me with respect and whose company I enjoy. Where I get revved up is when a group who by their very definition have no religious beliefs whatsoever are constantly interfering with and getting all up in the business of people who do choose to believe in God. I wonder why they get so upset and offended about something they claim doesn't even exist. I don't believe in fairies but I don't feel compelled to organize protests whenever a new Tinkerbell movie opens at my local theater. I know, I know...its not the same thing. But if they put up a statue of a fairy at the state capitol and people dressed up in costumes and danced around it and payed homage to it, it wouldn't bother me either. I would just think they were weird. To me, it would just be art. To others, it might be really meaningful but shouldn't I just concern myself with what things mean to me personally and let it represent whatever it does to someone else without allowing it to offend me? Let me put it this way: If' it is not important or meaningful to you, it is not FOR you. It is for someone else. That's okay. Just respectfully let them do their thing. I'm sorry if I seem to be beating a dead horse, here...I've just never understood the whole atheist activism thing. Guess I never will.
Yes, in America we have rights. Freedoms that citizens in other countries couldn't even begin to fathom. Should we exercise those rights? Absolutely. But before you start getting all patriotic and dusting off the leftover fireworks from 4th of July, consider this: Are your rights more important than mine? Or anyone else's? Shouldn't we consider whether our 'rights' are right for the individual situation at hand? Can you be more tolerant of others even if you don't agree with them? Just let them be who they are? Is it all about you? I know it isn't all about me even though sometimes I wish it was. I have a right to free speech. That's why I'm writing this blog post. You know another right we all have? The right to remain silent. We can (and should) exercise it more often than we probably do. There are a few folks up in New York who I am 'officially including in the ranks of citizens' who have the right to remain silent. I hope and pray that they'll use it.
Here's the link to the NY Times article if you would like to read it in its entirety.