Publish the Cartoons

Cartoons? What Cartoons?

By now even peace-mongering, Volvo-driving suburban Massachusetts residents are aware that Muslims world-wide are reacting violently to reported mocking depictions of Mohammed in various cartoons, originally published weeks ago in a Danish newspaper.

European Muslims initially and appropriately stridently voiced their displeasure, since, according to the dictates of Islam, any depictions of the Prophet are expressly forbidden. But as the protest spread it gained in virulence; Muslims first demanded an apology from the Danish Government apparently for allowing such unpleasant freedom of expression in its nation and then burned down the Danish embassy in Damascus, calling for the execution of those responsible for the insulting images.

But those of us in freedom-loving America can still ask What cartoons?

That’s because we have never seen them. And we have never seen them because.

We’ll leave that sentence unfinished for now. The critical element in this debate is the assertion by Muslims that others who are not of their faith must nonetheless abide by its strictures or die.

We of the West have long moved beyond such prosaic expressions of religiosity. A commentator recently described a European art show in France, of course which contained a depiction of Jesus with an erect penis compete with condom.

Offensive? Sure. But worthy of murder? That would hardly be Christlike.

And there is the rub. We in the West have engaged in our fair share of violence, but in the end we understand that, in other than the most extreme circumstances and perhaps not even then – it is unacceptable, and represents a failure of the human spirit.

But Islam, at least in its more recent manifestations, appears to be more endorsing of violence. The rage and lust for violence expressed by Muslims in response to the cartoons is couched in ecclesiastical garments but in fact represents the individual anger of Muslims who believe they have been rendered an “unforgivable insult.” Young men, primarily, have long had a longing for riot and mayhem, and the licensciousness of the Danish press has provided the youth and their spiritual mentors – with just the ticket for indulging those longings.

Every mob needs an enemy, a clear focus for its collective – and individually unreasonable hostility. Supposed leaders, many of them simple psychopaths, must find a reason to collect the unemployed, vagrant masses in the public square so they can display themselves at their head. And if some people must die and some freedoms be trampled upon in the process, then so be it.

It is ironic that the same dynamic occurs in American Rapper culture as rap “artists” manipulate their genitals on stage and prate endlessly about gang rape and gangster violence, the better to empty the pockets of their naive, libido-driven audience.

The truth of the matter is that we in America have not seen the legendary cartoons because American editors have been intimidated by the threats of faraway zealots. Even the Catholic Church, to its shame, appeared to legitimize the violence in releasing a statement that “The right to freedom of thought and expression cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers.” Does that include Satanists and the Jonestown cult?

It appears that a line has been drawn in the battle of cultures, and, silently, tacitly, we have agreed not to step over it. I for one could care less about seeing the cartoons, one of which supposedly depicts a guy in a turban with fuse attached, but I am concerned about swapping the freedoms we have spend centuries evolving for a fear based reaction to mob justice.

Now, in response to bad art and parody, the purveyors of a sham Islam want blood, but are in reality exploring how far brute bullying will get them. If personal experience, as well as history, has told us anything it is that indulging bullies does not placate them and make them sensitive citizens. It merely ups the ante in a circular game of extortion.

So, America, print the cartoons, so I can ignore them but feel better for retaining the freedom that makes us who we are.