I wonder what would happen if someone were to physically attack Park51 after it was built.
My prediction: we would see a massive outpouring of hypocrisy. People on the left, who talk about nothing but "understanding the root causes" whenever members of the so-called "privileged" groups are attacked, would dismiss as sheer bigotry (and maybe racism, the most over-used slur on the left) any reference to the root causes of the rage of the attackers. People on the right, who in the same instances dismiss as political correctness and anti-Americanism any reference to root causes—any suggestion that American polices might have made some causal contribution to the violent hatred a large part of the rest of the world feels toward us—would, all of the sudden, start talking about how understandable—if inexcusable—the act was, and how Muslims need to understand that you can't just build an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site and not expect repercussions, even though we—of course—think there was no excuse for the acts. Right and left would, that is, completely exchange the rhetoric exhibited in the aftermath of events like September 11. Cooler heads, who know how to split the difference, will be few and far between.
I think this is a very safe prediction, but I hope it never will be put to the test.*
*And, honestly, I am not worried that it will be. Whatever defects modern Americans might have, we still are very good—left, right, and center—about not solving domestic issues with violence. I still fear a tipping point in the future, especially if a Democrat wins the next Presidential election, but I am not worried about it in the immediacy.