I read a book not long ago that gave advice on how to be comfortable talking to people in every situation. One of the points the book made that stuck with me is that not everyone you meet is going to like you and that its best not to make universal likability one of your goals in life. You just have to be yourself and associate with people who appreciate your personality (if there are any such people.)
That little piece of advice came back to me last week as I watched some of our foreign embassies get attacked and a group of our diplomats murdered in cold blood. All of this happened because one man in America made a very amateurish film that ridicules the Islamic religion. Some people believed that justified destroying the people and facilities meant to promote good relations between our country and theirs.
These people simply dont like us. Specifically, they dont like the fact that we allow our citizens to express themselves on any subject without fear of retribution from the government. We have a very basic disagreement with such people, not just about government, but about a basic question of what is right and what is wrong. I dont believe there is a way to bridge that gap, and I dont believe that we should even try.
The way I see it, there is no shade of gray here. The man who made the film that has some of the more excitable elements of the Islamic religion up in arms was exercising his right to self expression under our Constitution. People have every right to be offended by his movie and to say so, but thats their only recourse in our system of government.
Not everyone seems to agree though. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. I disagree, madame secretary. The United States does not (or at least should not) deplore any particular view of any particular religious idea. As individual citizens we can express any opinion we like on the subject, and our government ought to have our back on the matter regardless of what anyone else feels about the opinions we express.
The appropriate response from our government to the violent protests over this film should instead have run something along these lines:
In the United States, every citizen has a legal right to express his or her own opinion on any religious matter without interference from the government. The man who made the film that has offended so many Muslims around the world speaks for himself and not for the government or any other citizen of the United States. He has broken no laws in our country and will not be arrested or otherwise harassed by our government. Any acts of violence directed at American citizens or American interests around the world will be considered unjustified acts of aggression and will not be tolerated.
And what should we do about people burning our embassies and attacking our diplomats? Obviously we either need to commit the resources necessary to protect our people and facilities or withdraw completely from these countries until they reach a stage of civilization that has advanced beyond the peasants with pitchforks manner of dealing with those who dont see the world the way that they do.
As far as giving financial aid to these countries, it should be an easy call to stop sending billions of dollars to places where our citizens are being murdered and our flag is being burned in the streets. Im not sure how a country that is drowning in debt like ours justifies doling out money to foreign governments in the first place, but surely we dont want to throw our deficit-dollars at places where the people long to see our blood running in the streets, do we?
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.