Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Quran and Pastor Jones

I'm sure you've heard of Terry Jones. He's the pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida. Come September 11, he plans to burn copies of the Quran in a bonfire. The White House, religious leaders, and General David Petraeus have asked him to back down.

In an email to the Associated Press, General Petraeus wrote that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan—and around the world—to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

So far, Jones doesn't seem inclined to back down. I saw him on the news this morning, and when reminded that his actions could result in the deaths of more U.S. troops, his response was "that's not my problem."

I'd like to think that I understand where people like Terry Jones are coming from. After all, the battle against terrorism can be frustrating. Islamic extremist groups such as the Taliban are elusive and shadowy. When people desperately want to find a target, and that target proves exceedingly difficult to identify, the tendency--with some--is to identify a larger target. Thus, in the eyes of people like Terry Jones, Islam itself is the enemy.

A big target is oh-so-convenient. A big target quells frustration because there are many opportunities for engagement. Never mind that the target is largely a work of fiction.

I have quite a redneck lineage, and it shows at times like this. I find myself characterizing Terry Jones as an evil son of a bitch, a wannabe Hitler in the making. But the fact is that people like Pastor Jones are often the result of combining fear, ignorance, and pain in a fragile human vessel and shaking it until it bleeds hate. Terry Jones may indeed be evil personified, but chances are he's just another person harboring a wounded child within, a child who grew up with too little love. For people of that mold, hate can be strangely comforting.

But, I can only go so far with my half-baked compassion for Terry Jones. You see, I have a goodly number of friends and coworkers who serve in the National Guard or other military reserves, men and women who face their second, third, or fourth deployments to the Middle East. Terry Jones' refusal to act as a mature, reasonable human being could mean a greater chance that I'll never see some of them again.

That said, in no way am I suggesting that the right of free speech should be denied to Pastor Jones. The Constitution has been eroded too much already over the years, by both Republicans and Democrats.

So, as deplorable as I find the event planned by Terry Jones, I will defend his right to go forward.

Even as I imagine how gratifying it would be to kick him squarely in the balls.


ThomG said...

My problem, from a standpoint of being "in the media" is that we've given him a stage to spew his hatred. Yes, I defend his right to free speech, but if you shut off the TV cameras, shut off the lights, this guy is just another kook without a stage.

Kelly said...

Considering my niece's husband just arrived in Afghanistan for a year-long tour, his "that's not my problem" comment gets under my skin.

Pam said...

There is just no shortage of ignorance or just plain stupidity.

Debby said...

I actually don't think that he has a right to free speech here, not when he's making a decision that could result in the death of innocent people. He has become guilty of treason. He's a nut wad. He's unreasonable. He's in it for self glorification. The more he talks, the more you realize that he is not a true Christian. He is one of those 'false prophets' you may have heard tell of.

Algernon said...

The First Amendment is a challenging principle. Offensive speech is permitted, even when our government disagrees. It protects the right of a tiny minority over the objections of a majority. It means we sometimes have to live with art and opinions that we do not like. It's a toughie.

But it applies to Pastor Jones.

Bob said...

I agree with the first comment. He has been given WAY too much publicity! Why is it news that a pastor of a 50-person congregation is going to do something stupid???

quid said...

I have no compassion at all for Terry Jones or his 23 followers.

I'm thinking "nut wad" is the definitive description.

I live way too close to this guy. Hope it is not in the water.


Scotty said...

I saw that story here too, Hal, and I have to ask myself how he would feel if someone planned a similar event to burn the Bible.