Channeling John Adams

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.





11 thoughts on “Channeling John Adams”

  1. Alice,
    Thank you so much for commenting. As a military mom, you see things through a unique lens and I accept your idea that General Petraeus was speaking out of an affection for and a feeling of responsibility to those under his command. I cannot begin to put myself in your place and imagine how you felt when an action such as this threatens your son and his comrades. All of us owe you and other military family members an immense debt of gratitude.
    I do admit to worrying, however, at there being a tipping point where in the name of keeping things calm and trying to make allies we contradict the very things which make America great, namely our constitutional rights. When the general said that the action was , “hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant,” he wasn’t speaking as an individual but as a representative of this country. I wish he had found a way to express himself that at the same time defended one of the basic rights that Americans have, that of free speech.

  2. As a military mom with a son deployed to Afghanistan, I would like to say that the General’s remarks may have been in hopes of tamping down the volatile situation there. Our sons fight side by side with Afghan troops who are Moslems. While the book burning went virtually unnoticed at first, Afghanistan’s own president stirred up a reaction with his comments. General Petraeus probably hoped to soothe our wartime allies and ensure the safety of his soldiers. I do not blame him one bit. Our boys are giving their lives in a very dangerous situation. We are building schools and trying to help a nation forge the concept of a rule of law. All that can be undone by an idiot with a match in Florida. You are right in theory but the reality in Afghanistan does not always allow for the luxury of speaking openly. You have to have some concept of a rule of law that applies equally to all before you can have freedom of speech and enforce it — not that I consider book-burning speech — it is barbarism.

  3. After reading this I must say this is one of the BEST articles that I have read on this matter. Susan you have captured the essense of the real problem.

  4. Bernadette Clark

    Thank you Susan for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It seems that it takes so much bravery to speak our minds anymore. You are spot on. Keep up the good work.

  5. Well, this post seems to have hit a nerve. I do think one of the effects of a voluntary military has been making it easier for a president – any president – to commit troops because his decision doesn’t ‘hit home’ in as many places. Which means that an understanding of what America stands for, a love for her and an overwhelming respect for the men and women who serve her is desperately needed bby those in command. President Obama continually seems to act in a way that shows he’s committed to understanding every country except the one he leads.


    Dear Susan,
    Talmud teaches us that we should not be angry, however it seemed that I failed (again). I apologize for my harsh words…but here goes:
    You are far more kind and calm than I was when I heard the media whining about the Koran burning, seeming to justify the actions of the eternally offended and murderous Muslims in Afghanistan. I told my husband that I felt like going to the nearest book store, buying a Koran (with cash!), taking it home, and burning it. So what, if I bought it. I hate to admit but I really have lost respect for Islam. I didn’t do it of course(didn’t want to waste my money).
    Perhaps Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere could buy a Siddur and burn it instead of killing people. That would be an improvement. One problem: Would they be able to find even one Siddur or Chumash ANYWHERE in their land? Thought not, because such books are AGAINST THE LAW and have already been burned! The US military even had to burn Bibles when they found some with our soldiers.
    In fact I think secular people who are constantly berating Israel and Christians should start a Burn-a-Koran-Day. Let them be truly “brave” as they like to say about someone who brags in America about being gay or having an affair or has a child out of wedlock. What would the media say if I started rioting and killing innocents because of what I see on Arabic tv? Certainly what is on their tv is an affront to civilized people, yet we are expected to bow and scrape to the sensitivities of such uncivilized and murderous people.
    My son has an interest in ROTC and a career with the military. I am hesitant to encourage him because it seems that he will end up risking his life to defend the rights of people who want the the world to be “Judenfrei.” How can a Jewish man do that?
    Obama once apologized to San Franciscans about Americans who “cling to their guns and religion.” Does he want to say the same words to his Muslim buddies or is his derision only aimed toward Americans, especially Christians and Jews?
    Well, I’ve had my say. Thanks for listening. Again I apologize for my anger and harshness.

  7. Thank you Susan for this article and for the link to Bolton’s article. People need to be educated about these issues and especially President Obama’s doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect”, a policy dressed up to look good, but is truly from “The Pit”…a real Pandora’s Box. Today its Libya…tomorrow it will be Israel! Why? To ‘protect’ the Palestinians, of course.
    Bolton says: “We should have a national debate on the “responsibility to protect.” Congress should discuss whether committing our young service members, at risk of life and limb, for purely “humanitarian” reasons, is legitimate national policy. We can admire the intentions of those who adhere to the doctrine, but we should ask respectfully whether they truly understand the consequences of their morality. And we should say to them unambiguously: If you want to engage in humanitarian intervention, do it with your own sons and daughters, not with ours.”
    Wake UP, America. Not only are our young people in the military fighting and dying for such shameless policies, but our Country is dying as well.

  8. Whatever happened to the family party of squabbling amongst its members, but presenting a united front to outsiders? How dare Obama try to appease a bunch of pathologically unhappy people?
    Your essay was very well said. Much calmer than I probably could have achieved.

  9. Well said. We seem to be obsessed with not saying or doing anything that offends Muslims. but Christians and Jews are fair game.
    As a trite example, if we were to change the “God”s and “Jesus Christ”s in our movies and sitcoms to “Allah”s and “Mohammed”s, I often wonder how the Muslims would react. If their previous behavior is anything to go by, they would not let the creators and distributors of such products live for very long. But we are supposed to put up with it in the name of “tolerance”.
    It is supposed to be a two-way street – and right now, it is all going one way. That’s not “tolerance”, it is “appeasement”.

  10. You go, girl! You’re absolutely right, and could go even farther! There is no moral equivalency between desecrating books or icons and its Moslem “vengence” of killing! This is the same reaction as Moslems had to the rude Scandinavian cartoons–the “religion of peace” is actually aggressively brutal. I saw a NYTimes story about how the Taliban loves Terry Jones’ koran burning because it’s a great recruitment tool. Obama should have defended Jones’ right to burn the Koran and blasted the Muslim reaction to it. After all, courts have ruled it constitutional to burn the US flag–symbol of what Obama is pledged to defend! Grrrrr!

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