Barrett: The vanishing art of distinguishing between unlike things

Barrett: The vanishing art of distinguishing between unlike things

April 10th, 2011 by Steve Barrett in Opinion Columns

Let's stipulate:

  • that gratuitously burning a book which people of a given religion hold sacred is a bad thing to do, even if the match bearer deems the book diabolical rather than divine;

  • that such an act is particularly ill advised when U.S. troops are fighting in a region full of people who revere the book in question, and when previous insults to their religion have become pretexts for mass murder, and;

  • that the recent burning of a copy of the Quran at a church in Florida was therefore stupid.

But then let us reflect on the greater evil that took place after the burning. (Notice I say "after," not "because of," for reasons I'll explain.)

At this writing, more than 20 people in Afghanistan are dead and nearly 100 have been injured in riots related to the desecration of the Quran.

Not many people in America, Afghanistan or, for that matter, Botswana or the Galapagos Islands approve of what the church did. But its ugly act revealed an uglier truth: Radical Muslims consider homicide an appropriate response to the nonviolent actions of those who disagree with them.

It's disgraceful that that should have to be pointed out in the United States only nine years after 9/11. But listen to the critics of the Florida church's actions. When they bother to mention the butchery that followed in Afghanistan, they mash it and the Quran burning together in some half-baked moral meatloaf. That betrays a stunning inability to distinguish between patently different things - a skill normally acquired not long after one slips the surly bonds of Pampers and Similac.

Yet it was hard to determine which misdeed President Obama considered more grievous. He labeled the Quran desecration "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry," according to CBS News, while the slayings were "outrageous and an affront to human decency and dignity."

Some go further than even mindless moral equivalence, by failing to condemn the killers at all. A column by a staff member at The Palm Beach Post in Florida derides the "infamous" church and its "vile" pastor, who, the writer says, is "making excuses" for the Quran desecration "that spawned scores of deaths and mayhem in Afghanistan."

Wait just a banjo-pickin' minute!

The people who should be making excuses for the deaths are the ones who picked up guns, knives or blunt objects and ended the lives of nearly two dozen innocents in Afghanistan. Some disrespectful jerk halfway around the world didn't force them to do that; they did it all by their lonesome. Yet the columnist proffers them not the gentlest reproof.

Wanna talk bigotry, Mr. President? How 'bout the soft bigotry of low expectations? What say we dispense with this quiet assumption that people of certain faiths can't be expected not to engage in slaughter when they feel dissed?

Their adoring fan

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, speaking on television about potential U.S. envoys to his country: "I hope they name [far-left director] Oliver Stone. I'll suggest a candidate ... [far-left "actor"] Sean Penn, or [far-left professor Noam] Chomsky. We have a lot of friends there. [Democrat] Bill Clinton!"

You know, it's never quite just to condemn a celebrity, politician or academic simply because some tyrant likes him - a-la Fidel Castro's tribute to Barack Obama as a man "who believes strongly in his ideas and who hopefully can carry them out" - or, now, Chavez's devotion to Stone, Penn, Chomsky and Clinton.

But at some point, if thugs and autocrats admire you, it bears asking why.