George Graham

I Laugh Because I Must Not Cry

As Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said, “I laugh because I must not cry.” And today I am laughing with Jon Stewart, who put America’s mosque “debate” in perspective on “The Daily Show” on Monday.

I don’t know who came up with this episode. But whoever did it, is a genius (in my opinion, anyway). I’ll provide a link to the video at the end of this blog so you can watch it – in case you didn’t catch it on Monday.

According to Wikipedia, Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) does some of the writing, and the other writers include Ben Karlin, former editor of The Onion, and former Onion contributor David Javerbaum.

There have been many Daily Show gems over the past decade or so. In addition to shelves full of awards for comedy, The Daily Show has been nominated for several news and journalism awards.

Indeed, I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert might be the two most trusted commentators on television today. What with Fox News abandoning all pretense of being “fair and balanced” by contributing a million dollars to get Republican governors elected and even so-called “liberal” pundits providing a soap box for the likes of Tom Tancredo, Michele Bachmann, Sarah You-know-who, Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay (in the name of “fairness,” I suppose), I am obliged to turn to the Comedy Channel to clear my head from time to time.

And I am indebted to the Comedy Channel for demonstrating the total absurdity of the Great Mosque Debate.

This issue is so specious as to be unworthy of comment. But comment it is getting – in spades. Even President Obama weighed in – both for and against the mosque, apparently.

First of all, there is no mosque. And the non-mosque isn’t at “Ground Zero.”  And the man responsible for planning to build whatever it really is has nothing to do with terrorism. And…

I know it’s useless to cite the facts when the right-wing noise machine gets hold of an “issue.” But, for the record, here they are (thanks, in large part, to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann):

The planned 13-story building is a community center with such amenities as a library, a basketball court and – yes – two prayer rooms. It is two blocks away from the site of the Nine-Eleven attacks. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind the project (photo above, right), is a progressive Muslim who has no record of advocating terror. There is an existing Muslim center nearby and it was there before the World Trade Center was built.

So what triggered this furious debate?

According to an article by Justin Elliott in, here’s what happened:

To a remarkable extent, a Salon review of the origins of the story found, the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

Elliott observes that the right-wing noise machine wasn’t about to pass up such a juicy topic. He writes:

Geller appeared  on Sean Hannity’s radio show. The Washington Examiner ran an outraged column  about honoring the 9/11 dead. So did Investor’s Business Daily. Smelling blood, the Post assigned news reporters to cover the ins and outs of the Cordoba House development daily. Fox News, the Post’s television sibling, went all out.

Within a month, Rudy Giuliani had called the mosque a “desecration.” Within another month, Sarah Palin had tweeted her famous “peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate” tweet. Peter King and Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty followed suit — with political reporters and television news programs dutifully covering “both sides” of the controversy.

Geller had succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

Is this a great country or what? Where else would a nutty nobody like Pam Geller (photo above, left), spewing a pack of vicious lies, spark a controversy that would eventually involve the nation’s president?

It’s enough to make you weep. Or you might want to laugh instead. If you do, click on this link to The Daily Show:

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for