Now that a mad Florida Pastor, Terry Jones, has taken the twisted logic of that addled demonstration to the next step, planing a Koran-burning to show “we will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats,” I’d like to hear how those who set out to stick a finger in the eye of Islam by drawing its prophet can justify condemning Jones, when he plans to stick in his whole thumb.
This was inevitable. It is the logical progression of the ethically-inert arguments that have been proliferating all year, asserting that because you have a right to do something disrespectful, rude and thoughtless (draw a cartoon of Muhammad..burn another faith’s holy book…build an Islamic Center near Ground Zero), you just have to do it, and anyone who suggests otherwise is restricting your rights. Rev. Jones’ foolish protest is a good bet to get Americans killed, but since that will be irrational on the killers’ parts, and because nobody should get that upset about an exercise of a First Amendment Right (kind of like, say, building a mosque), we should insult and upset them anyway. Or, as columnist Richard Cohen reasons, we have a duty to insult them.
Silly me: I’m still stuck in that ethical rut that holds that we should try not to be gratuitously disrespectful to the feelings and beliefs of others, even when the others may not be completely respectful of us. If there is a really good reason, that’s a different matter, and really good reasons can range from artistic expression to a search for truth to a really funny joke. Just doing it to annoy a group, or because we have a right to do it, or because we don’t understand why anyone should mind, are not good reasons.
But I’m sure all you self-righteous cartoonists out there can distinguish your stunt from what Rev. Jones wants to do, because he appears to be the kind of religious zealot they make fun of on The Daily Show, the Daily Show liked “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” and his protest is slam-dunk wrong and irresponsible, an act of bigotry, not protest. Yet his stated logic, purpose and motivation are identical to yours.