Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sticks and Stones and Matches?

This week the mainstream media is filled with stories about American men and women burning books. In a storyline reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, the concept of burning books to show protest against the mosque in New York City has brought about anger, fear and sparked even more hatred in communities nationwide. The FBI and the President got involved to stop Florida preacher Terry Jones (read the story here: Although Jones called off his plans to burn the Koran, other cities and preachers followed through ( Here is my take on the events.

First, people fear what they don't understand. A majority of Americans blame Muslims and Islam for the terrorist attacks on 9/11. And they are partially right. An extremist group within Islam were/are responsible. But should we punish all for the few? Get a clue, folks. That is how America works. It is not right or just, but it is what it is. And people seemed shocked. Think about it this way: don't we blame one "bad" Democrat or Republican for a "problem," then punish the rest of the party by electing the other? Sure. Has everyone forgotten that right after 9/11, innocent Muslims were attacked on public streets and in their homes simply because they were Muslim? The fear of the mosque being built on "hallowed ground" has just reignited the smoldering debate about good versus evil, Christianity versus Islam. Countless other examples from our great nation's history of mistreatment of misunderstood groups might include The Trail of Tears, the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Movement. What we have here is history repeating itself.

Second, the proposed and subsequent burning of the Koran exposes the liberals for manipulating the media to their advantage. Let me remind you all I do NOT believe in liberal media bias, as the conservatives frequently claim. There is no bias because we all freedom to pick and choose the media we read and listen to on a daily basis. I DO believe, however, liberals are guiltier than conservatives when it comes to manipulating news when it suits them (make no mistake, conservatives are guilty too, ahem, Andrew Breitbart videos). Explanation: liberals are bleeding hearts, and want to force everyone to get along all of the time, and to insure underrepresented groups are equal. So the fundamentalists who are calling for the burnings are playing right into their hands. If not for the coverage of the mosque controversy in the first place, a little church in Florida making a political statement would not have made the news.

Third, I believe in the 1st Amendment. As a media scholar, I will say it again: I firmly believe in the 1st Amendment. It is the constitutional right of the preachers to burn whatever book they want, as long as it is not government property. I can burn the American flag. I can burn the Bible. I can burn the Koran. Why? It is constitutionally protected freedom of expression. These items only have power because our society, or whatever religion, gives the symbols power and meaning. The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of racism in our society today, but the stars and bars didn't start off that way. To paraphrase President Obama, the burning of the Koran is not representative of the American values of religious freedom and tolerance. But isn't this a question of the freedom of these groups to express their opinions? What I hear President Obama saying is "play nice."

Finally, I don't buy the argument that burning the books will make life tougher for American military personnel. Countries at war will commit crimes beyond our scope of comprehension to win. Military members sign up for service to our country knowing they will possibly be fighting on foreign soil, abused and mistreated, possibly captured, and the list goes on. I am not in any way belittling military service. I am a proud wife of a Navy veteran who served on the USS Cole, the ship bombed in Yemen. I am simply stating fact: young men and women who sign up for the service know what they are signing up for, or they should. We have been at war in Afghanistan for years. I don't think burning the Koran will make the combat any more or less arduous. It is WAR. To take it one step further, you can't tell me the 9/11 attacks were planned overnight. Years of planning and training went into those horrific attacks. If these militant groups are already planning another attack, burning or not burning some holy books will not end or start these plans.

It is unfortunate these events have overshadowed the day of remembering those fallen in the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, and I think these groups proposing the burnings and even following through with burnings of the Koran should have chosen another time to create controversy. But that does not give the American government the right to censor the speech and expression of these citizens.