Should you provoke someone just because you can?
It’s an interesting question. One that—depending on the answer—leads one down a path of numerous outcomes.
If it is done to achieve social change—abolition for example—then hardly a rational soul can argue with it. But what about insulting someone’s faith? Does the relationship to God in the matter—change the mentality? What about a faith that practices hugely unjust, unfair, and uncivil consequences to those who disobey? What about the injustice that faith brings to humanity in the execution of those who leave it? Add to that complexity the matter of elements of a particular faith being the primary connection to the existence of terrorism and it’s global impact.
Don’t misunderstand; I would fight to the death to defend Pamela Geller’s right to hold her “draw Mohammed” contest. This is a civil right, given by God, and affirmed in the Constitution of the United States. The principle is clear! Free speech is guaranteed for the most provocative amongst us. It may be highly insensitive. It may be grossly uncomfortable. But the guarantee of the freedom of speech is one of the core components of our nation that make us distinctly American.
This principle was long fought for. Much American blood has been shed over the years expressly concerned with protecting American ideals. Free speech has actually been grossly under attack by the courts. To truly express one’s passions—especially as they relate to the American public—is a light that must never be put out.
But is the principle of expressing one’s self, no matter the cost, always indicative that it is the correct thing to do?
I would argue, “no!”
“Why,” you might ask. And it’s simple… it’s people.
The idea that people have the ability and the freedom to be civil to one another is a virtue that isn’t much in fashion these days. Those that study such things would even argue it is a significant reason for our downfall in areas ranging from business to foreign affairs.
If people never matter, then speech can be as brash and as unchecked as desired. If people do not matter than insults can and will fly without filter, without thought.
So I guess the question for each person when considering the balance of their right to free speech and also coupled to the idea that treating people with dignity matters is, “What do you want to accomplish?”
Our nation owes Pamela Geller a big “thank you,” for demonstrating to the world that jihadists are indeed waiting for Americans to offend them, and ready to kill in response. I also can’t help but wonder if our executive branch’s decision to embrace the jihadists over former strong allies makes us unnecessarily vulnerable. Geller has been preaching these dangers to the western world, now she has an assassin’s price on her head to help demonstrate the truth of what she means.
She will make a lot of enemies in the process, something she seems utterly fine with, and now she is learning of some of the additional costs exercising her right to the fullest means (extra private security, greater awareness of her circumstances, and a daily prayer that the protections in place don’t falter.)
Bill O’Reilly lauded her decision to run her contest as “dangerous to the relationships we have with ‘moderate’ Muslim powers—who are choosing to fight against ISIS.”
Megyn Kelly seemed to roll her eyes while answering Bill by saying that this freedom was meant to be as provocative as possible, to defy etc.
I myself have struggled—not with Pamela’s right to hold her event, and even to expect that the free and open society she lives in would be able to protect her. No my struggle wasn’t with her choosing her path, but rather the chastisement I’ve taken for mine.
I speak to the largest audience of evangelicals daily and weekly across talk radio (1267 affiliates Monday-Saturday.) This primarily Christian audience has been grievously offended by a film maker who attempted to insult Jesus Christ by depicting him as a loose man sexually in film. Yet someone else thought it would be artistic to take the iconic idea of Jesus Christ on the cross (where ironically he was shedding his own blood to rescue those who may even at times reject him) and submerge Him in urine.
No fatwas were issued.
No mercenaries assembled.
Christians instead prayed for those who had insulted them, and boycotted the film. I heard very few—if any—argue that the artists involved not be given the right to display their works or express themselves concerning them.
The mere publicly noting that Mohammed was a pedophile however—brings about threats on whoever observes it. Drawing his image is an act punishable by death. And those who believe this way are not impressed by American statutes, laws, or punishments.
Yet when I merely observed that Pamela’s passion and approach to wiping out Sharia, “wasn’t my style,” many of those same Christians harshly criticized me for “going soft” on radical Islam.
Some of radical Islam will be required to be stopped by force. Some of it may be overcome through relationship.
Both lend benefits to the ultimate solution. And neither side should judge the other.
I may have the right to both draw Mohammed in the presence of a muslim, and flip the bird to a road raging maniac on the highway.
Both are provocative actions designed to let my feelings be vented and my anger released.
Both may incur wrath that leads to my death.
Are either of them worth the consequence that accompanies them?
I will defend your right to do them regardless of the moral code they cross in my own life.
But I guess to get an answer you’ll need to ask someone who knows—because I simply find both counter productive.