Saturday, February 11, 2006

Offense v. Reaction

This is a little late, but I’d just like to point out that the whole Muhammad cartoon thing has two separate elements: The Offense and the Reaction.  Liberals keep tripping over themselves because they’re combining these together; and whenever anyone tries to suggest that they understand why they’re offended, they act like that might justify the Reaction.  But it doesn’t.  You can understand why they’re offended while still denouncing their reaction to it.

The offense seems natural, especially after dealing with offended Christians as long as we have.  Many Christians are apparently offended by Target saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.  They scream that America is going to “Hell in a handbasket” if we don’t let them use every school’s speaker system to issue an official school prayer each morning.  They’re damn outraged if we suggest that the Ten Commandments isn’t the basis of our laws or that there might be something wrong with them proclaiming their god’s supremacy on the walls of our courthouses.  And don’t even get them started on popular culture; they just don’t like it.

In other words, they’re offended at the very idea that they don’t get to do whatever the hell they want regarding everything.  They consider this to be a “Christian Nation” and believe that every aspect should reflect that.  And we’re not talking about reasoned discourse.  We’re talking shouting and protests and death threats.  (Disclaimer: I am not referring to all Christians; only the ones who do these things.)

So exactly where do they get off with their “free speech” talk and everything?  I mean, really.  These people see the First Amendment as nothing more than a giant prank played against them; the sole design of which is to undermine them and their god.  So how can anyone imagine that they’d happily accept a bunch of cartoons whose sole purpose was to offend them?  Even faith-based people would be a little doubtful of that claim, and they’ll believe almost anything.  And so it should be entirely understandable that somebody might have gotten a little pissed about this.

And then the Muslim reaction was a separate matter.  And yes, that was waaaay overboard, and to even call it that is to underplay its badness.  But the thing is, is this really about the cartoons?  Or are the cartoons just the spark that ignited something that was already there?  It was the same with the Rodney King thing, and most other riots.  The thing that set everything off is almost never the main cause.  It’s always something that’s been simmering and simmering for a long time, and then something comes together that is so outrageous that it blows the whole thing up.  But if it wasn’t Rodney King, it would have been something else.  And if it wasn’t the cartoons, it would have been something else.  Nobody is angered by just one incident.  Whenever someone flashes with anger, the newest thing is just one of a whole laundry list of problems that came before.

And I’m not necessarily saying that the reaction is justified.  I honestly don’t know.  But I’m not going to condemn it either, because I don’t know.  When one or two people blow their cool and start tearing shit up, it’s pretty easy to blame them for it.  And when it’s four or five people, you start to think maybe it’s a conspiracy or something.  But when thousands of people start tearing shit up at the same time, it’s time to start considering that maybe they’ve got a point.  That’s just from a statistics standpoint; a sample-size of thousands might be onto something.  

You could try to start a riot in your neighborhood right now, and it’s very unlikely you’d get very far with it; no matter how bad the cartoons in your paper are.  They’d have to have already been simmering for awhile before anything could set them off (though the last few years of Garfield has been pretty bad).  And so maybe the rioters have a point.  I don’t know.  I’m not justifying it, but I’m not so ready to denounce it either.

Again, we’re talking about people who don’t have shit and don’t have a representative government and feel like they’re being abused and constantly under attack.  And shit, their religion is just no fun.  I don’t know much about it, but I’m pretty sure that Islam is low on my list of churches I might join.  I hear they don’t drink, and I’ve seen that whole head-cutting thing the Shiites do, which totally grosses me out, and there’s like some long fasting period where they can’t eat during the daytime, and that would surely mess up my metabolism and make me a touch grouchy; and it just sounds pretty lousy to me.  I mean, no offense, if that’s your religion; but it’s just not the one for me.  I kind of believe that people need to let off a little steam every now and then, or they’re going to be letting off a lot of steam…and smoke…and fire…and everything else.  But that’s just me, so I don’t want any of you Muslims out there getting the wrong idea of what I’m saying.  All I’m saying is that I feel your pain and yadda yadda, don’t burn down my house.

I should add to all this, I’m the kind of guy who was raised Catholic, but kept forgetting that I couldn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  I even like fish and everything, but the whole “no-meat” thing always slipped my mind.  And of course I always had to lie to my mom about it afterwards.  She’d often ask me about what I ate, and I often wouldn’t even remember at first that I was supposed to say “fish sandwich” (not that I understand how fish isn’t meat).  And as long as I’m confessing, I often skipped out on the whole Confession thing, as it always creeped me out having to confess everything to some priest who knew my folks.  At the beginning, I used to lie to the priest and invent sins, just to get it over with; and then I just started hiding outside the church to avoid it altogether.  Let’s just say the whole religion thing didn’t agree with my lifestyle, and I can totally understand why it makes some people freak-out.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  But honestly, isn’t this all a tad bit hypocritical coming from Christians who act outraged about “Happy Holidays”?  Every president we’ve ever had was Christian and most politicians bend over backwards to show how pro-Christian they are; and yet they STILL complain that they’re under attack and totally disrespected.  And they get to control the most powerful nation that ever existed.  So should it be any real surprise that a Muslim with a crappy life and no respect gets a little angry…or a lot angry?  Sure, Christians aren’t blowing shit up (except the ones who are); but they also don’t have too much to complain about.  And yet complain they do.  And so maybe if the Muslims felt like they had more control over their lives, they’d feel a little better and wouldn’t explode like they did.  And who knows, maybe a little porn might help relieve some of that pressure (though you didn’t hear that from me).

But again, this isn’t about the cartoons.  It never is.  This is about everything, and the cartoons are nothing more than the catalyst.  We can downplay this and pretend like the problem is sensitive Muslims and some silly cartoons; or we can try to do something about it and make their lives better.  One suggestion on that, however, would be to not make their lives better by invading their countries.  I can’t stress that enough: They don’t like to be invaded.  This is, of course, in contrast to most Christians and Jews, who are famous for tolerance and being conquered.  But with Muslims, just a bad idea.

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