Friday, September 14, 2012

Freedom of Speech vs. Muslim Hurt Feelings

Something terrible and exceedingly rare happened this week. In the 236 year history of our nation, we have lost only 6 ambassadors in the line of duty.  Number 6 came earlier this week when a mob of angry Muslims stormed the American consulate in Benghazi, killing Chris Stevens and 3 others. Although the most recent information suggests a more complicated narrative, the original reason given for the violence was the wounded feelings of the Muslim faithful over an Internet movie deemed blasphemous to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. One of the promoters of the film was the notorious Muslim-hating Florida preacher Terry Jones, the same guy who caused a furor awhile ago with the staged burning of the Koran. Some thoughts...

I'm not going to lie, every time I see this Jones knucklehead on television, my humanity goes into the fetal position. Only in America can such an uncredentialed hack rise to such a position of influence and notoriety. Any idiot with an Internet connection has the potential for out sized mischief, and 15 minutes of fame. The fact that Jones styles himself as a "Christian minister" is what causes me the most embarrassment, proving once again that the biggest enemy of Christianity are and have always been...Christians. The true heroes of my faith are the men and women who daily take up their crosses and follow the commands of Jesus to be salt and light in the world, doing so in complete anonymity, far away from cameras and accolades. But let some Dog The Bounty Hunter look-a-like with an IQ of 50 stage a Koran burning, and every news organization on the planet practically kill each other trying to get an exclusive.

But this is America. We have a constitution, and in it there is a Bill Of Rights which guarantees us, among other things, freedom of speech. It not only protects important, uplifting, intelligent speech, but also protects the bloviating ramblings of idiots. It is part of the mixed blessing of democracy. Although Jones has a constitutionally protected right to his ignorant ravings, the rest of us have an equal right to shame him back into the cave that he crawled out of. WE have that right, but not the state. Freedom of Speech is one of the things that define who we are as Americans, and yet, in the wake of the murder of Ambassador Stevens, I'm hearing disturbing talk from some of the talking heads in Washington, talk about whether or not an exception should be made in this case. Do we as Americans really, in fact, have a right to "hurt the feelings" of 1.6 billion Muslims around the world?

Yes. We do. We have the right essentially because to carve out an exception for Muslim feelings, would render our constitution meaningless. What is it about Muslims that make their feelings more valuable than say the feelings of Hindus or Buddhists? If we as a nation go down this road, then there are an awful lot of writers, directors and producers in Hollywood who have a lot of explaining to do about their depictions of Christianity over the past 30 years. When Christians are daily portrayed as knuckle-dragging simpletons and slack-jawed bigots in movies and television, the reaction of Christians has largely been limited to letter-writing campaigns, ill-conceived boycotts, and resigned indifference. Can't recall the last time a mob  of angry Baptists stormed Warner Brothers studio looking to murder a couple of executive producers. Seems to me that if Islam wants to be considered a great religion, it needs to put on some big-boy pants and learn how to deal with criticism. Our Bill of Rights doesn't need to be tweaked to accommodate any one's hurt feelings, let alone the religion whose adherents flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. Do those terrorists represent all of Islam? Certainly not. Neither does Terry Jones represent Jesus Christ.