Monday, May 4, 2015

Don't Mess With Texas?

Texas is different. Although it's a southern state, it's different than the South. It's part of the American West, but it's different than the West. Everything seems bigger there. You order a steak there and they bring you a 20 oz. by God steak. Texas is big on confidence, attitude and pride. If any state could conceive of holding a "Draw Muhammad" contest and offer the winning cartoonist $10,000, it would be Texas. If any state could come up with the idea of inviting famed Dutch politician Geert Wilders to be the keynote speaker of the Draw Muhammad contest, it would be Texas. This is how they roll in the Lone Star State.

So, overnight in the Dallas suburb of Garland, the latest front in the War on Terror was opened. Two heavily armed men attempted to storm the community center where the cartoon contest was being held. One security guard was shot in the leg, and very soon afterwards the two men were sent to their 72 virgins. The Curtis Culwell Center was placed on lockdown. Inside, the 100 or so attendees lifted a prayer for the injured security guard and sang patriotic songs. 

I found most of these details not from the Associated Press version of events which was remarkably light on crucial details, but from the huge spread, complete with at least a dozen pictures, in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail. I have found this to be consistently true when it comes to reporting on terrorist attacks. American news outlets have a hard time forming words into coherent sentences when reporting on anything having to do with Islam, so tortured are they by ambivalence. On the one hand, they want to report the facts, but on the other hand, they walk carefully through a mine field of their own construction, strewn with potential trigger words and micro-aggression phrases that might land them in the progressive doghouse.

I am left with two conflicting emotions towards the news from Garland. On the one hand, I fear that this sort of thing is now here to stay, bands of radicalized ISIS sympathizers roaming my country avenging the Prophet's honor. With our porous southern border, I suppose it's inevitable. Although at this hour it isn't known whether the two gunmen in question were new arrivals or home grown, it doesn't much matter. America the beautiful may have become the new battleground.

The second, competing emotion I feel is embarrassment. Something called the American Freedom Defense Initaitive(AFDI) sponsored this event. It's leader, a Pamela Geller claimed that the event was necessary as a response to the "jihad against free speech." I feel relatively certain that the 100 people who attended would all consider themselves to be born again Christians and patriotic Americans. So, why does this whole thing feel so tacky to me? I mean, I'm as patriotic as it gets, and certainly no fan of radical Islam, but offering 10 grand to the person who can best humiliate the followers of someone else's faith in the name of freedom of speech seems less about free speech and more about rudeness to me. Listen, just because we have free speech in this country doesn't give us license to wield it like a club. Do I have the constitutionally protected right to draw a cartoon of Muhammad? Certainly, I do. Should I make a big bragging show of that right by going out of my way to intentionally humiliate Muslims? Not if I have...manners.

The primary difference between the liberal, civilized western world and that of the 7th century ISIS types is one of confidence. ISIS cannot deal with the freedom and enlightenment that has evolved in the West over the past 200 years. They feel threatened by the free world. We should have the confidence that comes with the technological advancements and human rights victories won in our part of the world. A confident people don't need garish events like the "Draw Muhammad" contest in Garland, Texas. A confident people need not humiliate others to feel better about ourselves.