Hendrik Hertzberg ends his latest, masterful commentary on the mosque near Ground Zero with a passage culled from the correspondence of a Founding Father of the United States:
“In a famous letter—the one that holds that the United States ‘gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens’—George Washington offered a benediction:
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Lower Manhattan is a little short on vines and fig trees nowadays, though there are some excellent wine bars. Washington’s point remains. His letter was addressed to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island. But, as he knew, Muslims are Abraham’s children, too. By the McCain standard, George Washington was a three-time loser: as President, he lived in New York City; the nation’s capital bears his name; and, even by the standards of his time, he was an élitist. Nevertheless: he was right.”