Terrorism has a purpose, illicit though it is. It goes beyond making innocent and targeted civilians afraid. Ultimately the terrorists want Americans to change our behavior – to see things their way and act like them.
On “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” the terrorists won. They got multitudes of Americans to act exactly as they do. Particularly disturbing was watching Christians taking part in the intentional desecration of another’s religious symbol.
Al-Qaeda went after symbols – the World Trade Center; the Pentagon. The Taliban ordered the destruction of Buddhist symbols in Afghanistan.
We Americans knew as those things happened that the destruction of symbols is a low form of speech. When we think of the higher forms of communication be it prose, poetry or art, the intentional defiling of what someone else holds dear is as low as speech can be delivered.
The purpose of criticism is persuasion. No one has ever been persuaded by first being insulted. You might convince me Wall Street needs correction by showing me bundled sub-prime mortgages, but knocking down a Wall Street building won’t convince me. You might convince me that the Church has a problem addressing pedophilia, but urinating on a crucifix won’t get the conversation started.
There are sects of Muslims who wish to kill or convert us religiously and impose Sharia Law upon us politically. But there are millions of Muslims, several million right here in America, who don’t. Why turn them into collateral damage? I’m all for killing Islamo-fascists where they stand. But I want to get along with peaceful American Muslims.
I take my queue from our American military. While they kill the enemy, the do all they can to eliminate innocent collateral damage.
Don’t I owe it to our fighting men and women to employ that same rationale in my discourse, the very discourse that justifies their cause and supports them at home? Am I not obligated to renounce the terrorists while at the same time being respectful to the non-belligerents, just as our military does?
It wasn’t surprising that Atheists jumped aboard “Draw Muhammad Day” to desecrate a religious symbol. Atheists, unlike Agnostics, are America’s lesser-minded. While people seek a relationship with God, animals don’t. It’s one of the things that separate humans from animals. Atheists certainly acted like animals on Draw Muhammad Day.
Christians make up 80% of America and therefore have a particular responsibility to be exemplary in the eyes of the world. I hoped that rather than take part in Draw Muhammad day, my fellow Christians would hearken back to the recent past when two of our symbols were famously under attack: When the artist Serrano photographed a crucifix in a jar of his own urine and called it Piss Christ, and when the artist Ofili painted the Blessed Mother Mary surrounded by pornography and covered in elephant dung.
The same Christians who found those images insulting where themselves coaxed into acting as Serrano and Ofili did – desecrating the religion of others and then running for cover behind a 1st Amendment argument that says they may.
But we Americans are much further down the road of intelligent discourse to be stuck on whether one “may” desecrate religious symbols and be protected by the first Amendment. Of course one “may.” That longstanding idea even pre-dates America, with Voltaire having famously said, “I don not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Yet many Christians spent “Draw Muhammad Day” spinning their wheels in the philosophical mud of an argument long ago won – using as the excuse to desecrate the religious symbol of another: “The 1st Amendment says that I may.”
But the 1st Amendment doesn’t say that you should, no more than it says you should use the terms Nigger, Spic, Gook, or Guido. The 1st Amendment is content neutral so you may say those things if you prefer, but isn’t it up to we American individuals to ensure that our discourse is conducted at levels on high, not in the gutter?
Yet straight to the gutter some went on Draw Muhammad Day, desecrating a religious symbol not because they should, but because they could. Hitler could, but he shouldn’t have. He became no less reprehensible simple because he could.
Also disappointing was the Muhammad drawings done by those politically identifying as conservatives. Two very important tenants of American conservatism suffered a knock-out on Draw Muhammad Day. One is respect for religion, which goes without saying was lost on those drawing Muhammad.
The other is the concept of “exceptionalism.” Conservatism is based on freedom, so that the individual is unrestrained. The unrestrained individual is the one who can soar to heights that were at one time only dreams. Given freedom, the individual can become exceptional in all pursuits.
On Draw Muhammad Day, people could have used their 1st Amendment right to criticize terrorism, jihad, Sharia Law and all that is Islamo-fascism, but with beautiful words of liberty such as those used by founders like Jefferson, Hamilton and Patrick Henry. Instead of using that right to draw distinctions between us and them through masterful communication, they went for the cheap shot of sacrilege. How unimportant. How unexceptional. How un-American. How terrorist-like.
Draw Muhammad Day revealed a distinction between professional journalists, who did not take part, and Internet hacks. I’ve always been a fan of Internet journalism, hitting back against the elitists of mainstream media as it does, and I have noticed sometimes that the best talent often lies undiscovered.
But on Draw Muhammad Day, score one for mainstream media, who did not exercise hurtful speech simply because they could.
Aside from the Terrorist win by making Christians temporarily act like them, someone else won: South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, for whom Draw Muhammad Day was inspired, because they came under veiled threat for (kind of) drawing Muhammad into their cartoon.
The irony lost on the Muhammad drawing Christians is that South Park is decidedly, purposely anti-Christian. Their show goes beyond insult of Jesus to downright contempt. Watching Christians whipped into an anti-religion frenzy must have the juvenile duo laughing their little short pants off.
Parker and Stone’s laughter is drowned out by that of Bill Maher, the anti-religion cable host who makes his living bashing Christians. Part of his meme is that Christians are hypocrites. Picturing him laughing through chokes of marijuana clouds is for the first time unbearable, knowing that this time, the “draw Muhammad” people made him right.
Better to be a true Christian and follow the book of Matthew, 7:12 – “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” I wouldn’t have anyone defiling my sacred symbols, and as a Christian I won’t do that to anyone else.