I'm having trouble swallowing the notion that violence has been introduced to Afghanistan thanks to the actions of Florida Pastor Terry Jones. Never mind the fact warlords have been clashing in the country for generations and the United States has been engaged in a major war there for the past decade.
But I digress. Headlines around the world proclaim that Jones is, indeed, responsible for riots and deaths, so it must be so. The Senate may hold hearings on the matter. Hamid Karzai is now demanding the U.S. take action. Quite a stir for a looney-toon minister with a handlebar mustache to cause all by himself.
So with 20 people dead, apparently as a direct result of this stunt in Gainesville, do I still feel it was vital for Jones to go forward with this vile and hateful act?
In a word: Yes!
Just so nobody misinterprets, I will say again burning the Quran is hateful and wrong. But that doesn't mean it isn't constitutionally-protected free speech. And it doesn't mean it doesn't provide something extremely valuable to the marketplace of ideas.
Indeed, if this single act was in fact responsible for the riots across the words, that demonstrates something remarkable. Americans cannot continue to believe this is not a small world, or that we are not all interconnected. In one of the least advanced sections of Planet Earth, there is widespread knowledge about an event attended by a handful of people in Alachua County. Cling to isolationism if you insist, but the belief we live in a different universe than the denizens of Afghanistan is simply wrong. Oceans cannot separate us anymore. Communications technology puts us all on the same block.
But this also shows that rhetorical assaults upon the Islamic faith do create national security concerns. I have long argued that attacking the faith of Muslims is the way to make enemies, and that our targeted military intervention upon a single religious group creates additional friction and danger. That is on display right now, and for once, people from across political spectrums are attacking the source of hate for sowing this incredible discord.
Keep in mind we live in a nation where the nastiest thing critics of President Obama can hurl is the false assertion he is a Muslim. Those rational enough not to cling to such lies still suggest it problematic that he even grew up around a large number of Muslims.
Such hateful attacks may help draw more base voters to the polls during midterms, but it also has the consequence of putting innocent people in danger. But somehow when cable pundits make these disparaging assertions, they get a pass. Jones does not. It is an interesting dynamic, but one that is deniably at play.
The truth is Jones has done a tremendous service for this nation by showing what bigotry can wrought even on the opposite side of the world. That is why this sort of hateful speech is constitutionally protected. Even when it is born of evil, its exposure can serve a greater good.