A short time ago, the writer, Salman Rushdie was knighted by the Queen of England. In the past, Rushdie had been exercising his right to free speech, and his artistic rights by writing a book that was critical of Islam, with dire consequences to himself, those around him, and England. Since then, a cartoonist in Denmark also exercised his right to free speech and artistic rights, by creating cartoons critical of Islam. The Pope got into trouble with his critical sounding comments about Islam.
Each time, a furor broke out, that caused protests, violence, and loss of life.
These actions raise the question: “When is it wise, and when is it foolish, to throw more fuel on the fire?” We can fairly easily predict consequences to our actions in a world that is at war. The radical Muslims are enraged – not just angry, but enraged. It takes a lot of rage to burn, kill, and commit suicide for a cause. And, they have some just cause to be angry. We have invaded several of their countries. Took sides against democratically elected governments. Armed Israel to kill the guilty and innocent in Lebanon and Palestine. Refuse to talk to their government officials. Call some of them the Axis of Evil. Create policies that continue to breed poverty and injustice. Capture their soldiers and hold them, long term, in prison without any trial. Abuse their citizens – in jail and out. The list is long, as is our list of their offenses to the West.
In truth, it seems that we hate each other and it seems to be all the fault of the other guy.
It doesn’t take a great deal of brain power to predict consequences of certain actions. Millions of people knew that invading Iraq would not be a slam dunk and could predict some of the consequences of that action. Millions of people know that when individuals, groups, or countries have raised their temperature to a high pitch, that reason will not prevail. Mothers all over the world know that when their children are fighting, they need to be calmed down before logic matters. Yet, we continue to do the same things. We keep feeding the fire, proclaiming our rights to do so.
When is it worth feeding the flames, and when isn’t it worth it? Is Knighthood really worth it at a time like this? Are silly cartoons worth it? Do we continue to yell, “you did it first?!” to each other, constantly saying that we have our rights to do what we want? What would it mean to be wise in an enraged world?