Cartoons, Lampoons and Dragoons

Leggo my Turban/A little Danish with your insult?

Many Muslims who hold moderate religious views and many people who are not Muslim, are offended by the infamous Danish cartoons. I’ve not seen the drawings, I don’t feel like I have to. Nor do I need to see photos from Abu Graib, Fallujah or Baghdad. I can see the cartoons and the other more graphic images reflected in the eyes of people who believe this war is somehow okay, who believe the lie that America is the exporter of freedom to the world and that we have some high ground on how it works.

To reduce this event to an issue of freedom of speech is to see it out of context with the world today. The debate is healthy sure, but it is a mistake to confuse the debate with the acts that provoked it. And since the coalition of the willing (which still includes the US, UK, Denmark and a couple guys from Togo) are presently trying to subjugate and intimidate at least three predominantly Muslim countries, we can hardly expect the Muslim world to appreciate how free speech should include insulting and degrading their godhead, their women, their beliefs and customs. Americas racist misadventure in the Mideast has provided excellent cover to nations wanting to fine tune their xenophobic machinery and religious intolerance. We should be very concerned at the rise of violence against and despair among innocent Muslim people in western Europe.

Up to last week the cartoons were just another example of baiting brown folks on the playground. It all seemed like good fun. Then things suddenly heated up when Muslims worldwide stopped buying goods from Danish businesses that depend on Islamic market share. Like we should be so concerned about what’s happening to Lego’s quarterly revenues because of those bad Muslims, that we forget about the economic infrastructure that has been destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan and replaced by Halliburton. It seems ironic to me that the side with all the power here, made up of white European provocateurs begins to whine when united Muslims begin to wield their collective economic power. Economic jihad is something capitalists should understand and even show a little respect for. Maybe we could learn what we need to know without planes slamming into office buildings.

The cartoons should be seen as the hate crime they are, like a breach in global security. But making the cartoonists or publishers liable somehow for the havoc and distress caused by the cartoons would mean we would also have to make our leaders criminally accountable for the mayhem of this war. Failing to make our leaders accountable, we and our children’s children, will all bear the consequences.

As far as history is concerned, ours is a relatively young model that represents one kind of “democratic and free” society. People from the rest of the world don’t think we in America look so free as we did just a decade ago. Most Americans even agree that we have kind of let the empire’s destiny get hijacked by a small cadre of hateful people with a frighteningly narrow agenda. With Bush embodying our peculiar mix of god, the corporation and war, and the rest of us steaming right along with him towards Armageddon, it looks rather like the trial period for our model is up.

As an advocate of free speech, I would not want my views to create much elbow room for Nazis, racists, fundamentalists, neo cons, jihadis, etc. They seem to find all the room they need these days without my help. Personally, I’d find it hard to have much faith in a god without a sense of humor. I guess that might decrease the chances of Islam, Judaism AND Christianity as global keepers. Please let the next guys know that I’m good with the concept of trying with all my might to do least harm.

David Stocker is a Unitarian Universalist, a writer, teacher and musician in Rockford, Illinois. He is part of the medicine band, One Drum.