Busted Halo
 
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November 5th, 2010
Saturday in the Park
Reflections on fear and faith at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Sitting on a packed Greyhound bus on Friday night, somewhere between Port Authority and Union Station, I panicked. I couldn’t breathe; my cell phone was about to die. I was even thankful that the guy next to me was asleep and drooling; that was better than him witnessing the unmedicated panic attack of the person sitting beside him — a bipartisan, underemployed thirtysomething who had never been to a rally before. I’m claustrophobic and anxious about crowds, germs and public transportation. I’m as leery of the concept of Port-O-Potties as I am about attending events that require them. Why attend the “Rally to Restore Sanity” if it meant forsaking my own?

The thing is, I had waited such a long time for Saturday.

Those of us with panic disorder generally like to know what we’re in for beforehand. On the way to D.C., no one knew. Was this undefined and/or unprecedented rally going to be political or sarcastic?

Every possible scenario came to mind. I envisioned being screamed at by officers on horseback or trampled upon by angry hipsters wearing ironic Halloween costumes (the guy stapling Lipton Tea bags to his pea coat comes to mind). I imagined holistic hippies selling vegan muffins and self-published copies of Eat, Pray, Shop. I pictured people screaming at each other, being handcuffed and thrown against police cars, and a media circus capturing it all on camera. Cops meets Saturday Night Live meets C-SPAN.

Guess what? None of these fears were realized.

August 26th, 2010
Finding Common Ground at Ground Zero
Interfaith activist Eboo Patel on the Ground Zero Islamic Center controversy

A few months following the September 11 attacks in New York City, Eboo Patel—like countless other Americans—visited ground zero and prayed in memory of those who were murdered. Nearly a decade later Patel—a Muslim-American who is the founder of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) —now sees that prayerful moment through a different lens. “It’s a little bit shocking” he says “for me to think that my prayers, because they happen to be in Arabic, would have been unwelcome by some people.” His reconsideration of that memory was catalyzed by the current controversy surrounding the proposed construction of the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center near ground zero.

Patel’s interest in interfaith relations has its roots in his experience working and living at several Catholic Worker houses during his college years. He went on to obtain a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. Since then he founded IFYC, a Chicago-based institution dedicated to building the global interfaith youth movement. Named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel is also a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships as well as the author of the award-winning book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation and a Washington Post blog “The Faith Divide.”

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