As a college student in the 60s, I heard a lot of concern that we were going to lose the war in Vietnam because of the home front – that Jane Fonda and Abbie Hoffman were giving material comfort to the enemy. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about that, and the nature and extent of Free Speech, as well as about the nature of personal responsibility. When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they were under a set of assumptions based on the thought of people like John Locke, Thomas Paine and Hobbes. Paine as the citizen of the world was arguing from the point of view of maximum freedom with a strong dose of personal responsibility. Locke, the philosopher looking at the world from the point of view of post-Restoration, Protestant England, was seeking balance and responsibility for individuals. Thomas Hobbes wrote earlier, of course, and he wrote against a background of chaos, fear, war and the attendant issues of the 16th Century. Hobbes was less interested in personal freedom as in the need to control that freedom, and was firm in his belief that a lot of people really can’t be trusted to think for themselves…unless you like war, chaos, fear and the attendant issues.
We seem as a culture to have mistaken license for the balance of freedom and personal responsibility. The American Philosopher, Richard Weaver, wrote a treatise that echoed both CS Lewis and Albert Camus in 1948 —Ideas Have Consequences. While it’s a treatise against the modern world, the decline of the west and William of Occam, the title sums it up. Freedom without personal responsibility is a denial of the possibility of consequences.
I recently wrote on another site about an online video called Obey the Walrus that I didn’t understand and found disturbing. Now granted, there’s a lot of stuff on the Web that I don’t understand and there’s probably more disturbing content there than not. But, I was wondering if by linking to it, was I contributing to some level of cruelty that I don’t get. As the T-Shirt says, “My idea involves midgets and porn – Ask for details.” The video had turned up on a relatively benign site, This Picture is Unrelated, which I recommend to anyone with a sense of the ironic and strange. I found it a logical transition to a discussion of a variety of music videos. But the video continues to bug me. Cripple porn? Auschwitz porn? Anorexic dance? Free expression?
Then that weird Mephistoplean Rednecked Preacher with the Walrus Sideburns/Mustache and the somewhat dubious ethical and criminal history in Gainesville decided it was a good
time to burn a Koran. Hilarity in the Muslim world ensued, particularly in our hottest war. General Petraeus presents a fair and balanced response through the Wall Street Journal. And, of course to make it special, Hamid Kharzai decided to make it a big deal. As it obviously is – 22 dead so far.
The Taliban just needs to surf along on the rage of the Afghani people. In Afghanistan’s troubled history, about which I’ve thought too much in my lifetime, lots of people have had great ideas for the future of that conglomeration of tribes with a flag. Most of them – hell, all of them – have shuddered to a halt because of a basic lack of understanding of the terrain, both physical and human. The English got to conquer it three times because of that failure to get it; the final time, they basically declared victory and left. The Soviets had such a wonderful time that they basically said, Pogue Mahon, and left. General Petraeus has an excellent idea of the terrain both human and physical – and he knows that a few more incidents like this, and the whole Counter-Insurgency thing will go the way of Vietnamization and the Sunni Awakening and the banning of white settlers from the Black Hills.
“Every security force leader’s worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, if you will, especially one that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions,” Gen. Petraeus said in the Sunday interview. “Obviously it’s an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges.”
Back in September, when Terry Jones of the World Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., first announced his intention to burn Islam’s holy book, Gen. Petraeus publicly urged the preacher to abandon the plan, saying it would be exploited by the Taliban and endanger the lives of American soldiers. Rev. Jones’s church shelved the idea at the time. But then he reversed course and his church held a “trial” of the Quran and incinerated the book in a videotaped ceremony March 20.
“This was a surprise,” Gen. Petraeus said. The Quran burning in Florida, he added, was “hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant.”
The murder of UN Peace Workers and Nepalese Guards when security measures went south in a previously peaceful part of the country is kind of a wakeup call. For us. If we want to allow people like this Jones dweeb as we have the Phelps dweeb and the Trump Dweeb and the Bachmann-Palin-Overdrive Dweebs to do things that are outrageous to the Afghani people and the Muslim world, we need to say, “My bad. Later, Gator, and get the hell out of that benighted place.
While it may seem a reach, this guy Jones really reminds me of Charlie Sheen. Not so crazy as it seems; in fact, Sheen’s current masturbatory tour bears a striking resemblance to the whole Terry Jones and Congregation “Gonna Burn Me a Koran!”Magical Mystery Tour and hatefest. It’s about shock and ego because I can. You’re not the boss of me!
Sheen is a danger to himself but probably no one else. However, Terry Jones and his Love Doves are a danger to our soldiers in Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world as well as presenting a material danger to US interests. I don’t think that Paine would be down with declaring the publicity seeking demagogue a terrorist threat and shipping his ass off to Guantanamo. But, I’m pretty sure Locke, Hobbes, Madison, Hamilton and Jay would be. We might as well get some use out of the goddamned place – certainly the Muslim world regards it as a terrorist act, and what the hell…it is.