Is it too late to have an opinion about the terrorist attack in Texas?
I know it's been, like, three whole days. No story can stay "relevant" for three days, unless it's something of historic importance like a royal baby or a transgendered reality TV personality. But Garland? Well, that was just two Muslim militants in the U.S. recruited by Islamic State to slaughter a group of American citizens for the crime of exercising their free speech.
That'll get you a day in the headlines -- maybe two, if the media is feeling especially generous -- no more. Sure, add a few more bodies and a few more gallons of blood and you might have a 72-hour news item on your hands, but that's not how it played out in Texas.
Because, well, it's Texas.
The dead bodies stacked up from this incident were just the terrorists themselves. A fortunate detail, but it didn't help the story's staying power. Frankly, that isn't the body count the media prefers, nor is it the type of dead body they're after. These were radicalized Islamists trying to kill right-wing free-speech advocates only to be taken out by an armed off-duty cop. Every single part of that last sentence flies directly in the face of at least a half dozen progressive narratives.
FBI crime scene investigators document the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
It's all quite inconvenient. Reality, I mean. Reality is just so uncooperative. You know, sometimes I get the feeling that it happens regardless of our agendas and ideologies.
Anyway, after watching and reading the analysis of this incident, and seeing the simpering parade of henpecked apologists predictably heaping more blame and scorn upon the "draw Muhammad contest" organizers and participants than on the idiots who showed up and tried to kill everyone, I thought I'd add a few thoughts of my own.
Four thoughts, to be exact. I have to get it all out now, before the weeks ends and this objectively significant and urgent event is officially scrubbed from every news cast and forgotten by the public conscience, never to be spoken of again:
1) Two heavily armed terrorists with automatic weapons were quickly defeated by a local off duty law enforcement officer with a pistol. That speaks partly to the fact that these Muslim attackers were inept, cowardly, ill-prepared fools who learned the hard way that just because you have body armor and big guns doesn't mean you're an assassin. More importantly, though, it highlights the skill and bravery of the officer.
The word "hero" is tossed around pretty frequently and pretty frivolously these days, but to engage and dispatch a couple of gun-toting bad guys is the very definition of a heroic act. Certainly not as heroic as smacking your son around on national television, yet still pretty impressive in its own right.
Since we're so eager to burn down a city every time a police officer crosses the line, do you think we should take maybe a second out of our busy cop-bashing schedule to give them a little credit when they risk their own safety to save countless lives? I'm a little tired of, and a lot nauseated by, this routine where a bunch of apathetic, non-contributing, selfish zeroes sit on the sidelines waiting anxiously for a reason to tear down anyone who wears a uniform, while refusing to acknowledge that sometimes the evil police actually perform the rather valuable service of standing between us and a murderer with a gun.
That's not some sycophantic platitude, it's just the truth. Go ahead and criticize these men and women when they screw up, fine. Fair game. But recognize that many of them are doing dangerous, courageous work, while you've likely never done a dangerous, courageous thing in your life, and never will. Acknowledge and appreciate that, or I will not acknowledge and appreciate your opinions about police brutality.
2) I've heard it said that the organizers of this event were intentionally trying to provoke a violent response from Muslims. Maybe they were. I don't know. I can't see inside their hearts to know their intentions. Whether they were trying to provoke or not, doesn't it say something profoundly troubling about Islam that it can be so easily provoked in the first place?
I know I can provoke my 2-year-old daughter by saying the word "juice" or "cracker" around her without immediately producing either juice or crackers for her to consume. I was recently delighted to discover that I can also seriously annoy her by pretending that her baby doll farted. And yes, sometimes I antagonize a toddler by making farting noises, because I'm bored and I'm in fourth grade.
The point is, it's OK for my daughter to react like a 2-year-old. She is a 2-year-old. It would, arguably, be far more troubling if she turned to me and maturely stated, "I find your antics quite tedious and vulgar. I would prefer it if you stopped, but I respect your right to behave in this manner. I shall now remove myself from this situation before it boils over into something rather unpleasant. Good day, Father."
Pakistani protesters burn a representation of a French flag during a protest against caricatures published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. Pakistani students are clashing with police during protests against the French satirical magazine that was attacked last week for publishing images of the Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
She's not expected to have that attitude. She's a child. Society tolerates a certain amount of childishness from children. They're children, after all. That's why we call it childishness.
Grown adult Muslims, however, are not children. Even if they were, they should still be expected to refrain from committing mass murder because they don't like a cartoon someone drew.
It boggles the mind that we're even having this conversation. Drawing incendiary pictures of Mohammad might be a base form of expression, but that's also why anyone anywhere in the world should be able to do it without worrying about getting their head cut off. Of course that's not the case, but the reason why it's not the case isn't that dastardly provocateurs just won't stop drawing pictures; it's that Islam has encouraged large swaths of people to react like mindless barbarians to an image on a piece of paper.
It seems kind of odd that when someone is killed by police I'm not allowed to ponder whether their life of crime may have led to the altercation, but when a cartoonist is murdered everyone seems to ask, "well, what was he drawing that caused that to happen?"
The cartoon didn't cause anything to happen. It's a cartoon. Cartoons don't kill people. Muslims kill people over cartoons.
[sharequote align="center"]Cartoons don't kill people. Muslims kill people over cartoons.[/sharequote]
3) Free speech is valued by intelligent and moral people, which is why our country has grown increasingly hostile to it.
We -- many of us, anyway -- do not value the open exchange of ideas anymore. We actively oppose it, in fact. We're afraid of it. That's how you get "Free Speech Zones" on college campuses and pizza shop owners run out of business for expressing untrendy beliefs. Thanks in part to public schools, mass media, and our general moral and intellectual decay, we have come to desire conformity over all else.
Why should a person's right to be offensive be protected, we wonder?
Well, according to some people, including a news anchor at CNN, it shouldn't be and it isn't:
it doesn't. hate speech is excluded from protection. dont just say you love the constitution...read it https://t.co/znZJ8cPvpX— Chris Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) May 6, 2015
Tragically, Chris Cuomo, the esteemed legal scholar, is not in the minority. Or at least it isn't a very small minority. Many people contend that "hate speech" -- i.e. speech they've subjectively determined to be distasteful and yucky -- doesn't "count" as free speech. In the wake of this attack, others have wondered whether tighter restrictions should be placed on "provocative" ideas, while the Washington Post published an article demanding that Pam Gellar, the organizer of the Draw Muhammad event, apologize for exercising her First Amendment rights.
Clearly, this is all fantastically absurd.
As many have pointed out this week, offensive speech should not just be a protected form of speech -- it's the only form of speech that should be protected. Non-offensive speech needs no safeguard or consideration. You can go anywhere on the planet and utter things that are not viewed as offensive to the powerful, the privileged, and the violent. As long as your thoughts are agreeable to the people in those groups, you can say anything you want, anywhere you want. Hooray.
You can't call that free speech anymore than you can say a prisoner has the "freedom" to go anywhere he wants as long as it's somewhere within his 8x10 foot cell.
A country can be considered a haven of free speech, then, only if people can, for instance, hold peaceful anti-Muslim demonstrations without fear of being killed or imprisoned. Currently, we don't have to worry about the imprisoned part of that equation, but I think that could change, and probably will.
A Jordanian chants slogans during a protest against cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, after Friday prayers in Amman, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. A rally by Pakistani students against a French satirical weekly's latest publication of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon turned violent on Friday, with police firing warning shots and water cannons to disperse the demonstration. A photographer with the Agence France-Presse was shot and wounded in the melee. But although there were concerns that rallies against Charlie Hebdo' new cover depicting the prophet � an act deemed insulting to many followers of Islam � would unravel into violence across the Muslim world, most of the protests elsewhere passed peacefully. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
4) Speaking of unpopular speech, try this on for size: "Islamophobia" is rational.
That's the other problem with calling people "Islamophobic" for criticizing Islam. It suggests that there isn't a sane, justifiable reason to harbor any negative feelings about Islam at all. I certainly don't think we should hate Muslim people, but is it really so unreasonable to feel slightly apprehensive about the religion itself at this point?
Taken literally, Islamophobia means "fear of Islam."
OK, well, there are many Muslims who have gone to great lengths to convince us to fear it. So what if I finally oblige them? Who is to blame if individuals, after over a thousand years of sustained violence and barbarism, begin to, you know, notice?
Personally, I don't fear Islam, simply because I won't give the terrorists that satisfaction. But if I'm a Christian living in the Middle East or North Africa, I think I might. I would in that context be extremely susceptible to bouts of severe Islamophobia, if only for the moderately compelling reason that Muslims have raped and murdered my family and friends, destroyed my home, demolished my village, burned my church, and driven my people out of our homeland. Do you think, with all of our great western empathy, we could find a way to understand why some folks feel a little salty about an ideology that has wreaked that sort of untold havoc across the globe?
I don't think the people at the event in Garland feared Islam -- if they did, they wouldn't have been there -- but did some of them feel pangs of Islamophobia while they were locked inside, listening to the gunshots on the others side of the door? Maybe. And whose fault is that?
Let me put it this way: some people feel uncomfortable with Islam because of the actions of many, many, many Muslims. If you want to chastise someone for Islamophobia, chastise the people who cause it, not the people who respond to the people causing it.
You know, there are problems in the Christian faith, also. We don't go around strapping suicide vests to children, or blowing up buses, or flying planes into buildings, or murdering hundreds of thousands of people every single year in the name of our religion, but we're not perfect. There's a wide breadth between "launching a continuous millennia-long campaign of brutality" and "perfect," and most Christians fall somewhere in between.
But when talking about the perceptions people have of the Church, and the fact that so many are fleeing, and that our culture has been won over by progressivism and secularism, guess who most Christian blame? Themselves. We blame ourselves. Christians are very willing to turn the focus inward and find the sickness in our own ranks.
I believe it is the Church's fault that people are leaving the Church. Certainly, everyone makes their own choices, but it is our responsibility to reach out and win them over to our cause. We have consistently failed in that regard. I am not shy about saying it. I have never met a Christian who is shy about saying it.
I believe our society has some wrong perceptions about Christianity, and I believe it is my responsibility, as a Christian, to change them.
Maybe Muslims should take the same approach.
Yes, Muslims, many people have a negative opinion of Islam. Guess whose fault that is? Yours. Do something to change it. That's on you. I take responsibility for how my faith is viewed, now you take responsibility for yours. You can tell me that Islam doesn't condone what so many Muslims are doing around the world, but those words mean nothing if there isn't a dramatic change in the way these Muslims behave.
That's a change you need to initiate. Don't blame me for seeing what is happening and forming opinions about it. Blame the people doing it. Blame yourself for not denouncing it loudly enough or often enough.
That's the way this works.
And now is a good time to start.
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