Burn a Koran!

The following is a commentary in an ongoing series of “Reflections” by John Mill. John Mill is the radio persona of Ronald Bruce Meyer and can be heard on “American Heathen.” The American Heathen” Internet radio broadcast is aired, live, on Friday nights from 7:00pm-10:00pm Central time on ShockNetRadio.com.

Burn a Koran!
A Reflection by Ronald Bruce Meyer

Somebody, somewhere, is going to burn a Qur’an.

I’ve been thinking about burning a Qur’an. No, actually, I’ve been thinking about how a two-bit preacher from Florida brought pretty much the entire Western world to its knees – and not to worship anything but himself.

You gotta hand it to Pastor Terry Jones, the hirsute leader of the non-denominational and strangely named Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida. He got a rise out of an A-list of important people, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama to the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.

Every one of these powerful people, representing the most powerful nation in the history of the world, would sacrifice one of our most essential liberties for the illusion of security. And this is a point that even Mr. Obama, a constitutional scholar, completely misses.

About 250 years ago, Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I know the quote has been overused, but it’s totally appropriate right now. This is a teaching moment for US democracy and our leaders are squandering it.

You see, even though he never even torched one page of one Qur’an, one delusional demagogue got all these people to kiss his behind – and still sparked violence: a massive protest in Indonesia and a letter from its president to the US President (urging him to stop the Qur’an burning), a march and a flag-burning in Pakistan, threats of anti-American violence, flag-burning and burning Pastor Jones in effigy in Afghanistan, amid cries of “death to Christians.”

Somebody, somewhere, is going to burn a Qur’an.

And maybe that would put US troops “in harms way” in Afghanistan and Iraq. No, wait, I think Mr. Petraeus wasn’t paying attention: US troops are already in harm’s way! What private citizens do to a Qur’an is not his concern: this is not a Fahrenheit 451 scenario or even a 1933 Nazi book-burning scenario. Those were government actions. US officials here are condemning private actions. And that’s not right.

You know what? Those who hate the US are not going to love us if we abridge our First Amendment to appease them. They have a choice about how they react: either they commit violence or they do not. Private book-burners may be reckless, but they also have a right. I don’t believe in the “heckler’s veto.” I don’t believe any of us has a guarantee never to be offended, to always be safe and secure and undisturbed in our opinions and beliefs.

The physical Qur’an, like the physical Bible and the American flag, is only a “thing.” I know some people believe that if you destroy the “thing” you destroy the idea (or, for all I know, the “god” or “spirit”) inside the “thing.” But burning a book is only destroying a thing, not an idea.

Burning a Qur’an is pointless. I don’t say it’s wrong or insulting – because feeling wronged or insulted is a choice – it’s just pointless. You can’t change beliefs by charring books. And if that’s really what’s motivating potential Qur’an-burners, I’ve got a better idea. You know what will scare the religious world witless?

Don’t burn their holy book; critique it.

Copyright © 2010-11 Ronald Bruce Meyer. To hear an audio version of this Reflection, click on this link: Burn a Koran

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