Of Mosque’s and Book Burnings

When I started writing this post, it was to be somewhat of a rant. As it turns out, it came out more “preachy” than “ranty’. I hope will forgive me, and indulge me just a little 🙂 .

Unless you live under a rock (or are much smarter than me and ignore the mainstream news), you have no doubt heard about the plans to build a mosque new so-called Ground Zero in new York. You have also heard of the debate that has sprung up between proponents of the mosque, and those who oppose it.

At the same time, we have someone who calls himself a Christian, and a leader at that, proposing to hold an event to burn copies of the Quran, and encouraging others around the United States to do the same.

Although both of these controversies stem from very different motivations, they both illustrate the very clear difference between what is legal, and what is simply “the right thing to do”.

On the one hand, we have a group wanting to build a religious centre, with a stated goal of also reaching out to other communities in the interest of collaboration and understanding. While I know there are those who see more subversive goals behind the project, I am willing to take what they propose at face value.

It is very clear that the construction of this complex (if I understand correctly, it is more than a mosque) is legal. This has been made clear at many levels of government, up to and including the president. They own the land. What they want to do fits within the zoning for the land. To be clear, what they want to do is completely legal, and they are fully within their rights to proceed.

That said, it is also clear that a significant number of people (I hesitate to say a majority, as I do not believe any statistics published by the media) are upset and offended by this plan. Some are upset because they a paranoid, xenophobic extremists who are absolutely convinced that anything Islamic is inherently evil. There also many, however, who are normal, rational people who have an understandable sensitivity when it comes to the events of 9/11. It is this second group whose feelings should be considered in this matter. While I do not believe any of the rhetoric that the mosque complex is a conspiracy to infiltrate the US, or to be a slap in the face or “victory symbol” for the 9/11 attacks, it is very clear that the project is causing pain to many people.

So what does this mean? It means that the right thing to do here has nothing to do with what is legally allowed. The right thing to do is to recognize and embrace the people who are genuinely hurt by this proposal. The right thing to do is to tell them “while we know we have the legal right to build our mosque, and we will not be bullied or coerced into changing our plans, out of compassion for those for whom we are unintentionally causing pain, we will change our plans and move our project somewhere less sensitive.” This would go a long way towards improving the image of Islam in American, and disarming the extreme “Islamo-phobes” who are so vocal. Again, this is the right thing to do, as opposed to merely the legal.

Turning attention now to events in Florida and the Christian group planning to burn Qurans as a philosophical statement. As opposed to the supporters of the mosque project, this Christian group is wilfully and intentionally acting to cause pain and upset to Muslims around the world. It is their stated intent to offend Muslims. This event has been vocally opposed by religious leaders of every persuasion. It has been opposed by political leaders at all levels and of all philosophical leanings.

The unfortunate fact, however, is that as morally reprehensible as these actions are, they are perfectly legal. What they are doing is legal, and to force them to abandon their plans would definitely not be the right thing to do, as it would infringe upon their rights and only further fuel their hatred.

As what they are doing is perfectly legal, what should we do about it? Well, for one thing, stop giving them so much attention. Unfortunately, it is far too late for that as this has been publicized around the world. The only thing we can do is stand by and watch. And forgive them. We can also make sure that we use this as example to explain to our children why this type of hatred and intentional disrespect is wrong. Finally, we can embrace those who are hurt and offended by this action, those who are its targets, and try to make them understand that we share their pain and outrage. Even though the book-burners are doing what is legal, we can take it upon ourselves to do what is right.

If only we could spend more time focusing upon what is the right thing to do, versus simply what we are legally allowed to do, we might have some hope of moving forward.

Random Thought

I was watching a rerun of Boston Legal the other night, and this quote caught my attention – not all of you will understand why, but some might… 

“It’s sad, how you go from intimacy to nothing, cold turkey. I mean, how many people along the way have true meaning in your life, and to suddenly have no contact, and….it’s sad.” – Denny Crane (Boston Legal)

Ok, so now what?

I will let you know, right up front, that this is going to be a largely self-indulgent post. I am basically just thinking out loud, and doing it in public. Kind of like standing on a street corner talking to myself, I guess.

You see, I am on the verge of a life changing moment. Or maybe I am in the middle of it – it is a long moment. It started when I received notice on October 11 that my services were no longer required. Maybe it started even earlier, when the acquisition of Whitehill by Skywire was announced, and I was pretty sure that my time here was coming to an end. No matter, since I do know when the moment ends – December 15.

This transition period has been very complex, emotionally. I have, after all, spent close to 9 years at Whitehill – a considerable portion of my working life. I have invested a great deal of emotion and energy into it. And of course there is the people side of things – I have worked closely with a group of people for many years now.

On the other hand, I have been feeling for some time now that it was time for me to move on from Whitehill, and do something new. For the past year or so I have been semi-actively working on other ideas, plans, schemes, etc. I have been held back, however, by inertia, fear, complacency – all the usual things. So, in a way, being laid of could be viewed as a good thing – forcing me past these issues which I may never have overcome on my own.

So, I am now presented with an opportunity to do something new. I can do something a little bit new, like finding a similar role in a different company. Or, I can go all the way and completely reinvent myself again (I have done this twice before in my working life). I am taking this situation as an opportunity to re-evaluate what I do, how I do it, and most importantly why I do it.

As is typical for me, this evaluation has involved a great deal of reading. Even before the transition at Whitehill became concrete, I had been reading a number of books on starting my own MicroISV, including Eric Sink on the Business of Software and Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, both of which were extremely useful. Recently I have been reading Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, which is a very interesting read and has some cool ideas, though not all of them I see as being good ideas.

In addition, there are the various blogs I follow, such as Escape from Cubicle Nation (which has had a couple of interesting, relevant posts recently – Excellent reading for those paralyzed by fear of leaving their job and Tips on cutting the ties and saying goodbye from Psychology Today) which in turn led me to 10 Remedies For “I’m Starting My Own Business And I’m Paralyzed With Fear!”, which of course has a 10 links to some other interesting posts.

I must admit that even now, when I know I am leaving, i still feel paralyzed with fear a lot. I swing from be optimistic about the future, to wildly ecstatic about the possibilities, to absolutely terrified that life will collapse in six months. Part of this, I know, is because I am moving outside of my comfort zone. This will be the first time in 20+ years that I will not be employed by someone, for even one day. That is a bit creepy!

So, getting to the title of this post, what now? I really do not know at this point. I have opportunities out there already, and I have no shortage of my own ideas. I have been asked by various people what I want to do. About the only thing I can say for sure right now, is that I want to do something “new and interesting” – I just have not decided what yet.

I have decided that as of December 15, I am going to take a few weeks to “decompress”, and to unclog my brain from all the Whitehill clutter that has built up. The last thing I want to do is to jump into something instantly. I know with certainty that once I am away from here for a few weeks, my thinking will change dramatically.

All in all, it promises to be a very interesting new year!

Tough to find time to blog!

So, just when I thought I was going to have time to start blogging more regularly, life gets in the way again. My wife seriously broke her ankle a few weeks ago, and has been off her feet. I have been playing nurse as best I can since, so there has not been much time for fun stuff like blogging. Hopefully I will try to get back into some rhythm soon. I have a bunch of things I want to talk about – a report from the Conference Board of Canada about Canada’s issues with innovation, some playing I have been doing with Microsoft Silverlight, and a bunch of other stuff.

Soon, I promise.