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Monday, September 13, 2010

Freedom for thee, but not for me?

I figure it's pretty safe to say that everyone's heard about the US pastor that threatened to burn the Quran.  Rather than ignore an obscure pastor of an obscure church that planned (but never carried out) a rather stupid, if perfectly legal, act, it became a media frenzy.  The news of his plans went round the world.  Leaders from all over stepped forward to condemn the proposed act.  Predictably, the "Muslim world" reacted with riots and protest, chants of "Death to America" and apparently the attack on an Anglican church in Baghdad, resulting in the deaths of two men.

Of course, the media frenzy has all been in the same direction.  That it should condemn the pastor's proposal was perfectly reasonable, but the over the top reporting and obsession with him served only to give him for more legitimacy than he deserved.  It also incited even more hatred against the US and Christians around the world, but apparently, that's perfectly okay.

Yes Magazine published a column, How to Confront Extremism on 9/11 that I thought was pretty typical of the media double standards.   Below are the eight suggestions made, with my commentary based on responses I have actually seen, heard and read.

1) Speak out in support for religious freedom
       Except Christianity and Judaism, because they are evil and the source of all evil in the world. 

2) Speak up when you hear Muslims or other groups disparaged...
      But never speak up when Muslims, atheists and liberals disparage Christians or Jews, because you might offend them.  Plus those groups deserve it, and if you defend Christians or Jews, you are defending prejudice, bigotry, homophobia, islamophobia and the subjugation of Palestinians by Israel.

3) Read out loud from the Quran or other Muslim texts on Sept. 11
      But you must not read out loud from the Bible in public, because if you do, you're preaching hate. Don't forget to burn them, just to make sure you aren't offending the locals.

4) Offer generous humanitarian aid to Pakistani flood victims
      Okay, I'm at a loss over this suggestion.  How is this confronting extremism?  What does it have to do with religion at all?  What does it have to do with anything else on this list?

5) Examine your own prejudices - most of us have them.
     Yes, we do.  But prejudice against Americans, Christians (especially Catholics), men, white people, Jews, Israel, Conservatives, Tea Partiers, The West, ugly people, fat people, skinny people, rich people, capitalists, etc ... are all acceptable prejudices.  Because they deserve it and their very existence is offensive.  Especially individuals like Beck, Bush (both of them), Palin and Harper.  Liberals, Leftists, Muslims, people of colour, gays, etc. are all incapable of prejudice, and disagreeing with anything they say is being prejudiced against them. 

6) Familiarize yourself both with the violent interpretations of the religions you encounter and with the interpretations of the same religious texts that emphasize love, compassion, and tolerance for all.
      But make sure you only emphasize the positive aspects of any non-Christian, non-Jewish religion, while emphasizing violent parts of The Bible and the Torah.  Extra points if you can bring up the Crusades and the Inquisition, point out (erroneously, but that doesn't matter) that Hitler was a Catholic and Timothy McVeigh was a Christian.  More bonus points if you bring up residential schools and pedophile priests.  If anyone tries to point out the differences between the actions of a particular non-Christian, non-Jewish religious group's and their claims of peace and tolerance, shout that person down as a right-wing nutbar, Islamophobe, homophobe, racist or bigot.  Because they're evil and they deserve it.

7) Speak out for tolerance on blogs, facebook pages, in public forums, in your faith group and in letters to the editor.
     Unless those people are attacking Christians (especially Catholics), Jews, Israel, Americans, white people, men, fat people, heterosexuals, conservatives.  They're fair game and defending them is only demonstrating your own intolerance, ignorance, and agreement with their hateful stances.  Above all, never, ever suggest that liberals, Muslims, gays, people of colour, etc. might also be prejudiced or intolerant, because their exalted status renders them incapable of it.  If they say it, it's always justified.

8) Monitor news and public-affairs media, and insist that they include voices for peace and tolerance in their programming, and not give undue importance to advocates of exclusion and intolerance. (A starting place is to sign Color of Change’s petition calling on businesses to “Turn Off Fox.”
     Because only Fox News and other conservative is intolerant and calling for violence, never the left wing media.   They must be silenced.  Only the left and certain approved ethnic and religious groups (namely, not white, not Christian, not Jewish, never conservative, nor anyone even remotely right of centre) are allowed freedom of speech.  Anyone else is evil and must not be allowed to speak out, nor should they be allowed to have a medium to speak out. 

Looking back over what I've written it seems extreme, yet this is exactly what I've been encountering.  It always astounds me when I see people who are so otherwise dedicated to freedom of speech turn around and insist those they don't approve of not be allowed to speak.  People who talk about tolerance and acceptance, yet spout intolerance and hatred - sometimes in the same breath! - against anyone who disagrees.  They're all about equality, but only for certain groups.  They're all about love and peace, only to condone violence and hatred against specific groups.  They interpret any disagreement with their views as prejudice and hatred, blissfully unaware of their own bigotry and hateful words.

It boggles my mind to see that those who preach loudest for freedom are the first to deny freedom to any who disagree.


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