It’s not about religious freedom. It’s not about property rights. It’s about the memory of what happened there. I don’t know anybody who believes that the folks behind the Ground Zero mosque don’t have a legal right to build there. They do.

Ross Douthat, the New York Times columnist, sees the hurrah over the GMZ as evidence that there are two Americas. It’s an interesting take:

There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. An America where the newest arrival to our shores is no less American than the ever-so-great granddaughter of the Pilgrims.

But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora – and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly.

These two understandings of America, one constitutional and one cultural, have been in tension throughout our history. And they’re in tension again this summer, in the controversy over the Islamic mosque and cultural center scheduled to go up two blocks from ground zero.

One America is fine with the GMZ, the other isn’t. It seems to me, however, that both Americas came together after 9/11-briefly, to be sure, but we were one. I’m sure that there are divisions in other cultures, too. Not every Muslim is responsible for what happened on September 11. Americans know this and I’m proud that our country remained hospitable to members of that faith after the attack.

Couldn’t those who want to build the GMZ respect that many citizens don’t want the mosque there, that it is not building bridges? Some find it provocative that the project is named after Cordoba, the beachhead of Islamic civilization in Spain. I suspect that even among Americans in Douthat’s more cosmopolitan group there is unease about the mosque.