Burning Korans

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I've lost track with how many people blamed this guy in Florida, who burned a Koran, for the violence in Afghanistan. Off the top of my head, there's Obama and Petraeus and almost every pundit and host on the Sunday talk shows.

Logically, this never ends: if someone burning a Koran is responsible for violence in response to that burning, then someone saying it is legally acceptable to burn a Koran is responsible for the person burning the Koran, and eventually we blame Madison and Jefferson and Locke and Aristotle and Socrates.

The media and political and military figures blaming the Floridian -- and I would say his name but I don't know it and I don't care who he is enough to look it up -- are as ignorant and stupid as he is. The people responsible for violence are the ones who do violence, and the people who tell them to engage in violence. That's it. The Floridian is no more responsible for this violence as Sarah Palin is for the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords.

Oh, right.

Of course, I am being a bit unfair: there was literally no connection between Palin and anything she's ever said or done, and Jared Loughner, the man who shot Giffords; yet there is a connection between the burning of the Koran and the violence. But as I said at the time, even if Loughner had acted as the direct result of what Palin had said, it is irrelevant: she said nothing that directly encouraged violence, and she could not be held responsible for Loughner's violent actions in response. The same goes here.

There is a large group of people in America that believes people simply are not responsible for thier own actions: they are too stupid, too unevolved, or too ignorant. This Floridian is among them: he believes the problem is the Koran. Others believe the problem is the burning of the Koran. Call me crazy, but I respect these people enough to believe they are responsible for their own actions, and no reading or burning of a Koran ever made anyone do anything.

How would the country have responded if some on the right wing started rioting and killing people because, in the early 2000s, George Bush was burned in effigy? Would the country have blamed the anti-Bush protestors who did the burning? Of course not; you may think the rioters were stupid or crazy or evil, but we'd still think they, and only they, were responsible for their own actions. But somehow when the rioting and killing is done by people with less money or lower education or -- dare I say it? -- darker skin, we suddenly absolve them of that responsibility.

Even worse is when the President or a General of the United States tells American citizens they should refrain from certain speech because they are responsible for what other people might do in response. That is the very definition of "chilling effect," and it runs entirely counter to their job, which, as Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure our rights. What Petraeus and Obama said to the Floridian is far worse than what he did in burning a Koran.

To say we should refrain from exercising our rights because the military might be put in jeopardy is the opposite of the design, which is that the military is put in jeopardy so that we may exercise our rights.

Burn a Koran, or a Bible, or an American flag; depict Jesus as a drug addict, or Joseph Smith as a pedophile, or Mohammed as Mohammed; say whatever you want to, however you want to. Unless you are telling people to act out violently, you are not responsible for the actions of people who do so. I probably won't like your speech, and I may disallow it on my own web sites, but I'll fight to defend your right to say it, and so will our military. And if they don't want that job, then they should quit, and the sooner the better.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on April 3, 2011 4:55 PM.

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