September 10, 2010

He does not speak for me

An East Coast friend said she figured I’d be hearing a lot of rural tavern talk of how it was time to kick some towel-head ass. Well, sure. There’s always some loudmouth eager to swab the flag around like a World Wrestling Federation banner. But I have heard equivalent sentiments expressed on NPR and CNN, refined only in terms of diction and dress. Bigotry and extremism have a commonality: Both are difficult to eradicate; both respond poorly to benevolence; and both are an embarrassment to those impugned through putative association, whether we wear NASCAR caps or turbans. The battle for civility will outlast all others.  
~ from Michael Perry's essay in the days following 9/11, featured in Off Main Street.
I'm sure you have heard by now about the pastor in Florida that plans to burn the Quran as a way to commemorate the 9/11 attacks nine years ago. The church's website (which has been taken down, at least temporarily) claimed this is not an act of hatred, but an act of love. The pastor claims that by burning the holy book of Islam, he is helping to awaken the misdirected and confused who have not taken Jesus Christ as their personal savior. He tries to equate it to a parent pulling a child out from in front of an oncoming semi-truck. However, though they may be confused and child-like, he still calls them evil.

In the 24 hour news cycle that thrives on extremist hyperbole, this fanatic man and his plan are getting a lot of airplay. He claimed that he was praying earlier this week over whether or not to go through with it. My hope is that he chooses not to, but whether or not he goes through with his book burning, my real hope is that no news outlet shows up, and not a single picture is taken. His 15 minutes of infamy should be considered over already. Of course neither of my hopes will come true, and coverage of this will be shown around the world, images that will fan the fires of hatred and likely put our citizens and troops in more danger.

This man and his message disgust me. He may have his first amendment rights to spew his venom, but it feels like this could fall under the definition of hate speech, or the "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater" heading of endangering the public. But of course whether or not he is within his rights, we needn't listen or give him a slot in prime time.

And I don't believe that this extremist pastor represents the Christian faith, any more than the terrorists of 9/11 represent the religion of Islam. The fanatic messages of these people on the fringe do not represent the body of the whole, no matter how loudly they shout their toxic message. But that is the exact message that the pastor is selling - that someone who perverts the message of a belief system implicates everyone. That we shouldn't single out the criminals, but rather condemn the entire population. I can only hope that the people of our nation and the world don't think like the pastor does, on many levels.

I would say ignore him entirely, but if we do not speak out against this sort of message, history has shown that messages of hate can spread, particularly through a scared, struggling population. I can only hope that these messages of hate will create a pushback from people who will stand up and say that this is not acceptable. This is not who we want representing our faith, our country, our people.

"What does the Diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?!"
Vogel reaches out to slap Henry yet again, but Henry grabs his arm, stopping him.
Henry: "It tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them." 
~ from Indian Jones and the Last Crusade


matt said...

I find it interesting that people in the middle east have been burning American flags and effigies of the pastor all week and yet that is sort of explained away as "Well, they are offended and upset".

If an Imam in Afghanistan were to burn a bible on Easter, I doubt the reaction would be the same.

Chances are, no one in America will be burning anything other than what's on their BBQ's today.

Sean said...

That may be true, but I don't think that because people in other countries do things that are offensive makes it any more acceptable when we do it. I think our country was founded on different principles, and if we are truly the 'best nation in the world' as so many proudly say (and I am certainly not arguing against that sentiment), I think that sets the bar a little higher.

And I hope you are right about the BBQ.

Holly Linden said...

Step away from the computers boys, and come to dinner. I didn't burn anything.