So, I was mulling over this crazy situation that’s coming up this weekend, with the little cult-like church down in Gainesville, FL that plans to burn the Qu’ran on September 11.
On the one hand, you have freedom of speech, and what they’re doing falls under that umbrella. It’s like the nutters of Westboro Baptist, or the Klan, or any other group you despise. Hate what they say, defend to the end their right to do it.
In fact, it’s the Number One amendment in our Bill of Rights.
On the other hand, you have freedom of religion, and it’s not particularly love-thy-brother to burn any religion’s holy book, declare them Evil and want to eradicate them. One of the persecutions our founding fathers were fleeing was an imposed religion. Wait, that’s also covered in that First Amendment. Hm. In fact, this church’s brand of lunacy dogma is protected as well.
Certainly there are greater scholars than I, who could expound for days on the topic of Constitutional Law, Religion, and freedoms in general.
What our original government never could have imagined was a day when information transmitted in the millisecond of a lightbulb turning on, that images and words and moving pictures would exist and live on ad infinitum in an ethereal world that gives as much as it takes.
So what do we do? We can’t legally order this man not to proceed with his notion of protest. It is in direct contrast to (most of) our collective values, whether you worship Jesus, Jehovah or JellyBellys. (Allah, too, but it doesn’t start with J.) I’d like to see the entire world turn their backs. If the Qu’ran burns in the forest and nobody puts it on the internet, did it really happen?
Of course, our rapacious modern media won’t do this. Someone will argue the need to record the event for historic purposes. But the media attention is what this man WANTS. Giving it to him, and thus elevating his notoriety not only in our country, but the world, is, in my opinion, irresponsible. The so-called minister of this ‘church’, and I use the term loosely, has said he’s willing to die for his beliefs, but he has no regard for how his actions could trigger the reaction that would cause the deaths of our own soldiers abroad. Sure, you can spend another fortnight arguing responsibility there – if I load a gun, turn the safety off, and hand it to a ten-year old, do I get to throw my hands in the air and say, “Hey, I didn’t pull the trigger.” ? To me, this is where the decision breaks down. If you want to burn something – even a flag- and the only repercussions are social ostracization (or acceptance by like-minded people) or the only harm can come to you, then knock yourself the hell out. But when the fucking U.S. General overseeing our military operations says, “Hey, you doing this could really start some bad shit half a continent away, and oh by the way, your little shindig will be used in terrorist training videos,” wouldn’t you think twice? Maybe I’m being generous by using the word “think”. It just angers me that one of our soldiers, doing their job in Afghanistan, could somehow suffer the fallout from this person’s “conviction” to protest.
And, while I’m at it, I object to the conversations that compare this to burning an American flag. Because when you burn the Bible, you’re making a statement against Christians. Or the Torah, against Jews. So on and so forth. The flag? That’s all of us. You, me, black, white, every shade in-between, no matter your god, no matter your political party, no matter your income or education status: all of us are under that flag. When you make the choice to burn the flag, you are indicting our country in your protest, and it is (pick your option) an act of defiance against the entire country or an act of aggression against the entire country. Even this is still protected in our country. But these two situations are not the same.
Just remind yourself this weekend about what our First Amendment rights protect. And remember the people who died on September 11th, and all the other people, soldiers, freedom fighters who continue to die to protect this right.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is the most heralded truth I hold as a citizen of this country, and I am sad that the actions of one tiny pocket of our population (who enjoy the very freedoms they are denigrating) could be seen as representative of our collective beliefs about the Muslim faith.