Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's about fear

I don't usually approve of burning books, or flags, or any other symbols of deeply held, fundamental beliefs, although it has become basic First Amendment interpretation that symbolic acts [like flag burning or dancing naked] are fully protected speech—a position about which civil libertarians have, in the past, been particularly dogmatic. And so Americans have every legal right to do things that are offensive to others, even though you or I might disapprove. I most certainly do disapprove of burning Korans. But I wish that the media had paid no more attention to this attention-grubbing "pastor" than they do to the average flag burning.

Bruce Bawer, writing from Norway, thinks that the real story about the Koran-burning controversy is being ignored:
.... It’s clear, of course, that Jones—who at the last minute canceled the bonfire, declaring that “God is telling us to stop”—is a nut. He’s apparently made a career of spewing hate at Jews, gays, and just about everybody else who doesn’t belong to his tiny church, which seems to be some kind of wacky cult.

But that’s neither here nor there. The real story here isn’t about Jones but about the rest of us and what we’ve allowed to happen to our civilization since 9/11. Who would have imagined, on the day the Twin Towers fell, that nine years later we’d be so scared of Muslim reactions that the plan of some crank to burn a few copies of the Koran would become the lead story on the evening news and cause the president himself to plead with the guy to call it off? ....

.... Needless to say, the truly important things went unsaid on those network news reports. Nobody pointed out that we wouldn’t be fretting like this if there weren’t something very special about Islam. You could announce plans to burn a stack of Bibles, or the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Book of Mormon, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, or a truckload of copies of The Watchtower, or any other non-Muslim religious text without making the White House and Pentagon call emergency meetings and put embassies around the world on alert. How little time it’s taken for us to get used to paying Islam a unique degree of “respect”!

One of the network news reports—I don’t remember which—showed an anti-American demonstration by Muslims in Kabul reacting to Jones’s planned Koran-burning. The demonstrators were burning an American flag and stomping on it. Neither the reporter nor the anchorperson commented on this fact. Plainly, in their view, the burning of an American flag was not worth remarking upon. After all, in recent years Muslims around the world have burned countless American flags, not to mention the flags of pretty much every other Western democracy. Since 9/11, we’ve grown used to seeing the revered symbols of Western democratic values routinely desecrated in the Muslim world.

And we’ve also grown used to the fact this is most assuredly not a two-way street. American flags can be burned by the hundreds, by huge crowds, in the major squares of Muslim capitals, and that’s apparently hunky-dory with us. But when a guy in Gainesville whom nobody ever heard of decides to burn a few Korans, everybody from the president on down begs him to reconsider. Obama to the contrary, this isn’t about “our values as Americans”; it’s not about “freedom and religious tolerance.” It’s about fear. .... [more]
Fear by Bruce Bawer, City Journal 13 September 2010