Upon our return from Yellowstone National Park we discovered the terrible news that American citizens have been killed in acts of violence directed against our embassy in Libya, and that attacks have been made against the embassy in Yemen as well. The attacks seem to be ignited by an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. We are learning more about the man allegedly behind the video, while reeling from an attack that occurred on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.
None of it is good, or easy, or easily resolved.
The tragedy of the embassy attacks goes deeper than most of us will want to contemplate. A stupid and disrespectful act apparently has triggered an equally stupid and ultimately deadly response. It's like a forest fire we thought was under control, but lies in wait, smoldering in a deep corner of the forest, ready to re-ignite when the perfect conditions are met.
In America we can say what we want, for the most part. Common sense might dictate caution, and good manners might suggest gentleness, even an attempt to be understanding, but neither are laws of behavior.
Ironically, if what we are learning about the man behind the video is true, his own rights to free speech have already been curtailed by previous criminal actions, and his act of expression may in fact be illegal in his own country. Yet no one has taken into account that the voice of one does not reflect the voice of the many, only the right to speak even when the message is insulting or inflammatory.
Freedom of speech unfortunately allows ignorance and intolerance to mouth off. The video that allegedly inflamed the violent protests in foreign countries whose people look at things through different eyes than we do, also reinforces the image of America held in much of the Middle East. The response reinforces the image of radical Islam held by many here. Which is worse? The insult, or the response?
All I know is that the death by violence of one innocent goes against the teaching for all Children of the Book, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim. But that has never stopped us from ignoring the Word, or using the Word against its own intended meaning, and therein lies our greatest tragedy and our universal shame.