Every once in a while, I write something which says exactly what I hoped and wanted to say. More frequently, my words fall short of my thoughts and feelings. This reality makes me very grateful for those whose writings resonate with me as did John Bolton’s piece on American intervention in Libya. I was finding it difficult to articulate my concerns about the president’s actions last week without sounding as if I was either heartless or reacting to President Obama rather than to his deeds. Avoiding the topic altogether in my blog, as I did, meant that I didn’t write anything fragmented, foolish or glaringly incomplete, but at the price of staying silent. Being able to link to Ambassador Bolton’s piece and say, “Yes, that’s what I think,” is a great gift.
This week I seem equally tongue tied, but I don’t want to punt again, so I offer these thoughts about President Obama’s reaction to the murders at the United Nation’s mission in Afghanistan. While he strongly condemned the killings, he also deplored Terry Jones’ Koran burning. Now I have no desire to defend Terry Jones, but rather than nodding in agreement with the president’s comments, I found myself bristling.
What disturbs me so much about President Obama’s statement, “The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” is two-fold. Firstly, as leader of the United States, his position is to uphold the Constitution. That means that he should proudly defend the right of Americans to be intolerant and bigoted, let alone foolish and stupid. By uttering that sentence rather than just condemning the violent attacks, he presented an opening for suggesting that the murderous reaction might be somewhat understandable. (General Petraeus’ comments, if anything, were even worse).
I don’t think he actually believes his own words. If he did, his proclamation on this event needs a follow up public announcement urging Trey Parker and Matt Stone to voluntarily pull their Broadway play, The Book of Mormon, mocking Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. Or perhaps he could point to his condemnatory words when Andres Serrano’s award-winning ‘piece of art’ (1986) Piss Christ, featuring a crucifix immersed in urine, offended Christians (and used their tax dollars to do so). If he missed commenting on that brouhaha, in the intervening years there have been dozens if not hundreds of similarly offensive anti-Christian actions on which he could have stepped forward, either in his role as community activist, senator, presidential candidate or president. How about using the bully pulpit right now to label as bigoted and intolerant Democratic Hollywood donors who routinely ridicule religion and religious people ? Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Whatever flaws may have existed in John Adam’s presidency, his pre-Revolution defense of the British soldiers after the Boston Massacre – misleadingly and provocatively named so by his cousin Sam Adams – was an act of integrity. Risking his own prosperity and reputation he defended the accused Englishmen, despite his personal antipathy for the King’s rule.
Unlike John Adams’ actions, President Obama’s words ring hollow. Is he willing to state that desecration of Christian religious texts and icons is an extreme act of intolerance and bigotry? How about denouncing repeated Moslem smears against Judaism? Just a few weeks earlier, President Obama spoke against bullying, saying,” And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself – for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else… As a nation we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; most of all, to be true to ourselves.”
America is different from and doesn’t fit in with the Moslem world. Our citizens are free to speak and act in ways that many other countries outlaw, and that freedom extends to Terry Jones as well. Opposing behavior which insults a religion only when the members of that religion react violently, is both kowtowing to bullies and un-American.