Alright, So the other day I read a few interesting articles. First, we have the theft of the Mojave cross. Second, we have the attack on Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who drew the Muslim prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.
A little bit of background on the first topic: The Mojave cross was first erected in 1934 as a memorial to the dead of world war I. Now, I'm completely behind showing support for those who fought in WWI, That war was at least almost justifiable; The major complaint that has been posed, and which I feel deserves mention, is not to the memorial itself, but to the form it takes. Over 16 million people died during WWI. Let me repeat that: 16 Million People. Of these millions, only about 115,000* were American, less than 1% of the total casualties. Now, after the war is all said and done, along comes the VFW**. These veterans decide that there should be a war memorial for all of those troops, both foreign and domestic, who died in "The Greatest War". This organization then further decides that the most proper way to represent and honor these millions of people, is with a display of the iconography of the christian church, and on public land no less.
Now, on to the meat of my commentary:
After a lengthy court battle, the Supreme Court has decided, in a blatant display of disregard for the first amendment, to allow the cross to stand. While a blow to the atheist and non-christian communities, this was hardly unexpected. The ACLU has promised an appeal of the decision, but that wasn't quite enough for some enterprising adventurers. Some time either Sunday night or Monday, the cross was physically removed from the bluff on which it stood.
I would like to take a moment here to applaud the intention of the thieves, I'm sure we can all understand the frustrations that must have provoked them. However, while I give credit for good intentions, I must condemn their reaction as the worst kind of mistake. Specifically, the kind of mistake that holds back your entire community. These particular thieves, whoever they are, decided to resort to crime to support the goals of the atheist movement at large, the atheist movement that is already seen as an immoral, uncivilized corrupting agent by the majority of the middle-right, and a fair amount of the left as well.
But here we come to the crux of the matter; Can we really blame them? There always comes a point when issues transcend words, and action must be taken. Again and again, we have tried to protect the freedom from religious imposition that the contract this very nation is based on has promised us. These thieves, as all of us, waited for the supreme court to hear the case, and finally put to rest this shameful display of favoritism and establishment. Only after said court let them, and the entire non-christian community, down was more drastic action taken. For how long must we tolerate being ignored and marginalized? For how long are we expected to sit quietly and inactively simply to avoid offending someones delicate christian sensibilities? Some form of rebellion is required.
However, remember that this country is set up in favor of the underdog. Having experienced oppression once, the authors of the constitution wanted to make sure that everyone had their say, and that no one was unjustly silenced. In the future, let us keep our methods within the law, lest we perpetuate and justify the lies told about us by the christian majority.
Now on to the second topic, the attack on Lars Vilks.
First, I have to say, that this guys life could serve as an explanation of the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." I can almost guarantee that this guy never experiences a boring day. Before Monday, I had never heard of him; One mohammed cartoonist was very much like another in my mind. Now that I've dug up a little information on this guy though, I've realized that he's living in a bad action movie. He was the target of the, now infamous, Jihad Jane murder conspiracy. Remember that one? The one where the seemingly normal woman from Pennsylvania converts to Islam and then decides she's going to ice some guy from Sweden? He's had to put a panic room in his house for science's sake! Sound bad enough yet? Apparently not, if you ask fundamentalist muslims. While he was doing a lecture on free speech at a Swedish university, he was physically assaulted. A man in the front row jumped up and, allegedly, headbutted Vilks in the face, breaking his glasses.
It's things like this that really make me sick. These people are so high strung about their religion, that if anyone dares to offer a differing view or, allah forbid, draw a snarky comment about their prophet, they are considered having forfeited their right to life. I wish I could make every fanatic out there watch a video of Vilks playing with a puppy or something, then make them watch the video of him being attacked. If it made even one person have a revelation about the proper way to respond to harmless criticism, it would be worth it.
Let me put this another way. Say, for instance, that I was a huge fan of a musical artist (Jacob Johnson for example...anyone describing their style as Neo Acoustic Folk Funk deserves a plug, in my opinion). Further posit that I was so enthralled with said artist that I would be willing to throw myself in front of a bullet or club to protect them from bodily harm. From there, we take the step to viciously mauling bad critics to protect them from economic and social harm. One further step, and now I'm assaulting people who make disparaging comments about his music. Once more, and then I'm attacking anyone who likes any music other than NAFF (or no music at all, for all you metaphorical atheists out there). I'm sure anyone in their right mind would agree that I have left any claim of rationality or sanity behind long ago. By all rights, I should be in an institution for the criminally insane with a very strict restraining order from Mr. Johnson.
Yet for some reason, the criminally insane are not only tolerated, but advocated when the object of their affection is a religion. And by no means is this restricted to the muslims; Fanaticism is the dark underbelly of every faith. For every person who believes, there is another who believes. As in, believes enough that it's worth not only his life, but the lives of anyone who doesn't believe as well. It basically comes down to the self/other dichotomy. In any group that draws its membership on intense personal and emotional criteria, there will always be a small, but very vocal, minority that believes that anyone who doesn't think exactly the same way, any Other, is unworthy of even the most basic of human rights.
This, more than anything, is what we must strive to avoid and prevent. Even now, many countries in Europe have, or are in the process of instituting, legislation outlawing 'blasphemy'. What kind of world are we going to live in, if we let every extremist with a god and a gun decide what we can and can't say? It seems a very short step to Thoughtcrime.
Read your Orwell, this is not the road we want to go down.
* The total combat deaths for US forces were approx. 50 thousand, and the non-combat deaths totaled approx 63 thousand. Compare this to the, for example, Serbian forces. Now, I don't know about you, but I can't remember anything from any history class I've ever taken about the Serbs in WWI. But the Serbians lost over 250 thousand soldiers, and over 450 thousand civilians. This puts their casualties at well over 700 thousand individuals, almost 7 times as many people as were lost by the United States. Here is a nice little pie chart I've found that demonstrates my point.