Have you ever seen this picture of Rachel Corrie burning a flag before? If not, you also probably don’t know who Corrie was. She was a 23-year-old woman who was crushed to death eight years ago by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to block its path.
Afterward when the photo above came out and some people used it to say Corrie got what she deserved, this was how her parents responded:
Trying to use this picture to somehow indicate that Rachel deserved to be run over by a bulldozer is an appalling act of demonization that infers that forms of protest which include flag burning are capital offences. In the words of Rachel’s parents: ‘The act, while we may disagree with it, must be put into context. Rachel was partaking in a demonstration in Gaza opposing the War on Iraq. She was working with children who drew two pictures, one of the American flag, and one of the Israeli flag, for burning. Rachel said that she could not bring herself to burn the picture of the Israeli flag with the Star of David on it, but under such circumstances, in protest over a drive towards war and her government’s foreign policy that was responsible for much of the devastation that she was witness to in Gaza, she felt it OK to burn the picture of her own flag.
“An appalling act of demonization that infers that forms of protest which include flag burning are capital offences.”
So? Isn’t that begging the question? Isn’t saying the flag burning justifies what happened to her precisely that: flag burning should be a capital offense? Corrie’s parents don’t think so, obviously, but why not?
Further, why shouldn’t American soldiers stationed throughout the world, incensed by Corrie’s action, likewise have vented their rage on Muslims by bombing their homes and killing them in their offices? Ridiculous, you say? Barbarism, you scoff?
Yet this position seems to be what many like John Avlon are arguing in response to the massacre of UN personnel by Afghans after a Koran burning on the other side of the world in Florida. Given the video was viewed fewer than 1,500 times worldwide before the assault began, the relationship between it and the Islamic rage is tenuous–do Muslims in Afghanistan really sit around watching YouTube for such obscure videos to appear?
Even so, it seems Terry Jones can burn a Koran and cause more damage to Islamic perceptions of the UN than what is going on in Libya. According to Avlon, that’s what we should believe:
This explosion of violence comes at a time when the U.S. is at war in three Muslim countries and our enemies—terrorists and dictators alike—try to invoke Islam as a way of painting Americans as infidels. Terry Jones perfectly plays into their hands. The incident will be used by our enemies as a way to try and redirect the Arab Spring uprisings’ anger toward the U.S.
That Avlon believes three wars influence Islamic opinion less than the actions of a fringe pastor few even know the name of says something about Avlon’s opinion of Muslims: they’re children. Actually, I wonder whether such ridiculous arguments are completely accidental at all, but are the left’s version of “they hate us for our freedom.”
By blaming such egregious acts by foreign Muslims on non-entities like Terry Jones, Avlon and his ilk bypass the harder examination looking at true Islamic motives would require. They kill two birds with one stone in that their domestic foes like Jones get the blame for inciting Muslims, but likewise Muslims have their real grievances trivialized. Americans come to believe that the Islamic world ought be humored and placated because symbols matter more to them than reality. We can get along with them quite easily and resolve all the perceived conflicts by just not doing highly offensive things that no one wants to do anyway–well, no one in the American political mainstream.
We can all agree on the uselessness of a flame thrower like Jones, whereas to take a stand on Israeli settlements or negotiating with Hamas costs political capital. In responding to Jones, however, we become just as politically ignorant as those who would actually decapitate UN personnel because of anger over a book burning. Just like the Afghans in question, we forfeit the responsibility of knowing the facts before acting and begin responding to symbolism.
We know what Jones stands for, we think, and we’re against him. Knowing what Hamid Kharzai stands for and whether to be for or against him is a much more salient point but also harder to decide. And so the news media focuses on the one it can get the easy angle on and presents him to the mass audience, all pinned and wriggling on the wall for our easy viewing.
Americans tweet and post and chat about how stupid the book-burning and Jones are. Thanks to the media spin, they know exactly how they ought to react to that. Some may even say they wish it was Jones who had been killed instead of the UN personnel, embracing the argument Corrie’s parents decry rather than the argument they make: Find out why Corrie/Jones burned the symbol in the first place. Or they may decide that an attitude of blaming Jones for Islamic fanaticism is outrageous; Muslims just need to grow up.
Either way, the conclusion drawn is akin to saying one’s runny nose is a bad thing without ever troubling one’s doctor as to why it runs.