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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

United States Condemns Cartoons Depicting Prophet Mohammed

United States Condemns Cartoons Depicting Prophet Mohammed

“State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper says, ‘These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.’" http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7002239615

I am surprised to find that I take issue with the above statement from our State Department. I, the bleeding-heart, overly tolerant, member of the so-called academically elite, latte-sipping liberal from the Bay Area, take issue with our State Department’s tisk-tisk-tisking to the Europeans and acquiescence to the rigid, fundamentalist response by reactionaries (who happen to be Muslim – a nod to the satirical aspect of PC).
I’ve been watching this Danish cartoon story unfold and reading till I am blurry-eyed the ongoing debate in the press and between bloggers about the fundamental differences between West and East, Christianity and Islam, and the reasons for the Muslim world’s anger, frustration, etc.

I’ve been trying to understand, to step outside myself and view this situation with the Danish cartoons and the Muslim/Islamic reaction from a different perspective – a sympathetic perspective – a walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes perspective. Because I have wanted not to defend the violent response, but claim that this response is not representative of the Muslim world as a whole. And that at the core, there is ample reason for righteous indignation.

When I look at the cartoons, I try to substitute Muslim for black, or Chinese, or gay. But I have a hard time coming up with equivalent cartoon scenarios (perhaps because my Western mind just doesn’t see these cartoons as offensive, repulsive, as the Muslim mind does (for drawings which, in my mind, definitely cross over into the blatantly offensive category see: http://thestudyofrevenge.blogspot.com/

How would I feel if something I hold dear and sacred were profaned in a public forum? How would I feel if a belief I held strongly was mocked, disabused, challenged not in an intellectual, rational, reasoned argument, but through what I considered manipulation? Through propaganda disguised as reasoned debate?

And how do I feel when my beliefs are mocked, challenged, satirized?

(I grow annoyed, angry. Hurt. Upset. Sometimes I plain get pissed off!)

On a regular basis I hear, read and see things that are anathema to me: homophobic and racist jokes that insult those who most dear to me. Religious beliefs and statements that completely undermine my own world view – that hold some of my dearest friends to be wicked, evil, sick, unclean because they are gay and lesbian. Snide comments that insult my political beliefs and mock my thinking. Racist remarks that make my stomach turn because my daughter is bi-racial.

I read a variety of different news sources every week – and sometimes I am affronted by political cartoons and op/ed pieces that essentially accuse people like me of being unpatriotic, that claim our questioning of the war is immoral and treasonous. I am outraged, insulted by this line of thinking.

So I am no stranger to the phenomenon of encountering beliefs and thoughts of others that run so contrary to my own deeply held belief system that they send me reeling, send me howling, send me out into the night with fist upraised.

But I speak metaphorically. I don’t howl, or rage, or shake my fist. And I don’t attack. I don’t set fires. I don’t threaten bodily harm to people whose thoughts and opinions cut me to the core, that seem ignorant, foreign, incredulous to me. I don’t shout out: Death to the Homophobes! Death to the Racists! Death to the Neo-Cons!

I keep all this in mind as I read the ongoing news about the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons. And I try to remember that Europe is different than the U.S., in ways both good and bad. Europe has struggled with rampant anti-Semitism for centuries) and has struggled to assimilate or integrate the Muslim/Islam immigrant population (and that does have something to do with the reprinting of the Danish cartoons and the reaction to them.

I sympathize. I understand that it is deeply upsetting to have the sacred figure of your religion depicted in ways which you see as blasphemous.
But this violence, this mindless, reckless violence – I can’t understand it.

Dare I make a sweeping generalization? Many of us hold freedom of expression equal to sacred beliefs.

I am disappointed in the U.S. government and the U.S. press. Only two presses in the U.S. have thus far reprinted the cartoons - how can we have an open, rational discussion of the intent and meaning of these cartoons if the general public is not allowed to view them? Keep in mind that not everyone is reading the news online – we do not have open access to the Internet (and that’s a discussion for a separate post).

Cooper’s statement about the cartoons parallels the Bush’s administration’s attitude toward public debate and freedom of the press in this country and that attitude is: stifle public debate and the press as much as possible. On the important issues we are confronted with today (the war, its meaning, its worth, privacy and civil rights), we are told that we have freedom “of the press and expression” and can have a meaningful debate. But every time the Bush administration is challenged, it claims the debate is in some way unacceptable.

The Danish cartoons saga began last September as an exercise in free speech. We see now part of the results of that exercise: violence, death threats, and the U.S. backing away from free and open discourse.

Links for the cartoons:


Blogger ffff said...

Oh how wonderful. What a fabulous blog. It touched everything I believe and hold dear. You are so good at putting into words that which frustrates and angers me..the homophobia,the racism, the fear our Governments are injecting into our press. Thank you for this blog. It is a very important one. I too had to look at what 'all the fuss was about' and my sister sent me the link. I tried so hard in my leftie, bolshevik, tolerant heart to see it from their point of view. I too have been insulted, denigrated and even had hate mail from letters I have had printed in the national newspapers. My fervour and passion for the poor, needy, disabled and disenfranchised has cost me acceptance by my brother at times. But through all the hatred, the threats and the laughter aimed at me and like-minded thinkers I have never ever sought to want to hurt anyone or anything.
Bird, you are a precious creature who is shining her light on a sometimes dark and angry world. Keep flying, high and clean. I will be watching for you, eyes uplifted so we can get through this together.
BTW our press in Oz has not published any of the cartoons...well 'freedom of the press' is not in our constitution.

February 07, 2006 8:02 PM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

I am disappointed with the State department too.
Makes NO sense to me. I belong to subcategories that have been demonized or made fun of or even dismissed but the digs were huge generalizations that I never apply to myself unless it fit. And if I were to be offended which would not be likely, I wouldn't be down in the basement whipping up molotov cocktails in protest. I agree with your post, let's drag all this out into the light of day and discuss, debate and deal with it.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, you waving a sword around defending the stones? Well I had planned an entire dig post on them but since you like them so much......hey when I am their age(s), I hope I am standing around down at the hardware store in my overalls! I dont care how fit I am.
Alison, I want you to know I have great, deep, abiding compassion for dried up ageing rock stars.

February 08, 2006 3:37 AM  
Blogger Pete Bogs said...

we're in a tough spot with the cartoon issue... some people think we're in a war against Islam right now, so distancing ourselves from the cartoon makes some sense... US bases are being attacked over this - it wasn't our cartoon! but, it was just a cartoon... this violence is sick, sick, sick...

I think though, as the self-proclaimed inventor of democracy, the US should stand up for the right to free speech and a free press...

February 08, 2006 9:12 AM  
Blogger K9 said...

/bark bark bark

try a google search of anti semitic cartoons, and look at the ones printed in arab papers. its more than holocaust denial.

re: apples and oranges at WCH
warp on!


February 09, 2006 7:49 PM  
Blogger disguised said...

Maybe I'm missing something here (haven't gotten much sleep lately)--but WHY did the prez. feel the need to say ANYTHING on this issue? Sounds like a weak effort at some sort of p.r. move to me. There really is a difference between the U.S. and Europe, and sometimes our interpretations differ because of those cultural/historical differences as you refer to bird. Why does the U.S. ALWAYS have to comment, always be the leader on F****n everything? It's so arrogant. Really, his comment comes off to me as just plain arrogant as usual, and with this dude, I'd expect nothing more, nothing less.

February 09, 2006 11:45 PM  

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