Democracy, with an Asterisk
Freedom does not equate to irresponsible actions. We may argue “the right” to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. In so doing we must bear the consequences of such an ill-advised strategy.
I find it a bit silly to hold on to the notion that we have the entitlement to disrespect anybody at any time. We define ourselves by that to which we cling. If we embrace anger, we become irate. If we seize spite, we grow to be rancorous. If we clutch contempt, we become disrespectful.
Certainly one cannot condone the violence perpetrated by those claiming these cartoons as the catalyst. They are solely responsible for their actions. The fact these uprisings take place in self-professed theocracies show the quality of spiritual commitment in those realms.
We will never overcome differences by slaughtering sacred cows. We face living in a world capable of the mass destruction of civilization, if not human life itself.
Common courtesy and respect must begin somewhere. We like to think of ourselves as “the good guys.” “Treat others as you want to be treated,” sounds like a good start. That does not warrant the return of insults. Let’s grow up and realize there may be more at stake than our pride disguised as righteousness.
Perhaps, in the time of the Patriot Act, we might want to consider Yippie Vietnam War protester Abbie Hoffman’s re-casting of Holmes’s words. He said that in the U.S., freedom of speech was the right to shout “theater!” in the middle of a fire.
So, Mr. Guerin, the next time you get your panties twisted in a wad so tight that you feel compelled to expel more senseless dribble, maybe you should check your facts first.
First is the whining about “intrusive” laws like car safety seats for children. He asks, “How did we survive before these intrusive laws came into our lives?” The answer is, of course, we didn’t. People died! Thank you for pointing out how liberals, by caring for others, have saved lives.
Then comes the fear of anti-smoking laws and mandatory auto emissions inspections. I loved his dig at conservative selfishness. “Why don’t liberals just mind their own friggin’ business and stop mandating what we can and cannot do with our lives.” (Note the absence of a question mark. Nice touch.) Freedom is a complex concept. This statement shows how cloudy the conservative concept of it is. Freedom is the right to swing my fist anywhere I want to—until somebody’s face gets in the way. Liberals are concerned about the other guy’s face—the other guy’s second-hand smoke—the other guy being forced to inhale noxious emissions.
What is a liberal? Not an easy question. After meeting and talking with many conservatives and hanging out with liberals, I have a working definition of the word. “Liberal”: a person with a mind and a heart. As Mr. Guerin so cleverly proved, we have to have laws to make people be nice.
To quote the greatest liberal of all time, “Let the man who has two coats give one to the man who has none” (Luke 3:11). A kind and caring thought from a man who challenged how we choose to live our lives.
It may interest Mr. Guerin to know that the latest amendment of TCA 55-9-602, commonly known as the Child Passenger Restraint Law, to update and strengthen its provisions was passed in early 2004 by the Republican-controlled Tennessee legislature.
Another Republican, unencumbered by facts, blasting the left as responsible for all they perceive to be wrong with this country. Gee, what a surprise.
Democracy, with an Asterisk
In a nutshell, that single sentence communicates the gist of the U.S. “democracy promotion” in the Middle East and elsewhere—that is, we promote democracies we like. The rest, to borrow Times reporter Erlanger’s phrasing, are to “face isolation and collapse,” and the people’s lives “will only get harder” if our “demands” are not met. Never mind, as Erlanger pointed out, that “Opinion polls show that Hamas’s promise to better the lives of the Palestinian people was the main reason it won,” promises based on local health care, literacy and other programs already run by Hamas.
The skeptical reader might do well to imagine, if just for a moment, an imaginary scenario in which some outside superpower demanded that a newly elected American government be “destabilized” so that it “will fail and elections will be called again.”
And let’s be clear about who ultimately bears the weight of U.S. and Israeli “demands”: the Palestinian people, that is, men, women and children. So when reporters, the Times ’ Erlanger in this case, discuss reduction in aid and Israel’s contemplation of pulling its “other levers on the Palestinian authority,” such as closing borders, it is the people who will suffer. No matter, because for the U.S. and Israel, “The hope is the Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.”
The Palestinians have made their choice at the ballot box, and now, to borrow a phrase from an unidentified Western diplomat quoted by Erlanger, they must continue to face a grim future where “all the options lead in a bad direction.” To be fair, the Palestinians are new at this, and it is up to us to kindly guide them to make the correct decisions, perhaps they’ll learn their lesson the second time around.
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