By lex, on September 8th, 2010
The Ground Zero Mosque controversy has shown that American citizens still understand the difference between “can” and “should.” The Park51 project sponsors have every right to build their “community center” in the ghostly shadows of the World Trade Center – people of good will and taste argue that they ought not.
The same sensible cohort of citizens is undoubtedly even more dismayed by the plans of the pastor of a trivially small Florida parish to burn a copy of the Koran in commemoration of the 9/11 attacks nine years ago. It is, as General David Petraeus has said, an act that could put our war aims at risk and jeopardize the lives of American soldiers. AG Eric Holder has weighed in to denounce the plans, as has Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, who said that the act would be disgraceful and disrespectful. The perpetually outraged set are, predictably, outraged at this expression of libertine free speech.
People may differ over whether the construction of an Islamic worship center near Ground Zero is a triumphal gesture and calculated affront. No such room exists for difference over the proposed Koran burning, it is intentionally provocative, and dangerous.
For my own part, place me squarely in the group of those who believe this provocation is deeply stupid and counter-productive. Yet I can’t help noticing that when Andres Serrano photographed a crucifix in urine, he was sponsored by the US taxpayer in his work, and was much lauded by the art world for his bravery. And when Chris Ofili hung a dung-besmeared and pornography-spackled painting of the Holy Virgin Mary in the Brooklyn Museum, Hillary Clinton – while admitting that the work was offensive – vociferously shouted down an attempt by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to withdraw funding from the museum, while the New York Civil Liberties union rallied in favor of the display.
This act is sensational headline news not merely because a sacred religious item will be profaned. We have become resignedly accustomed to the profane. It is sensational because who will be outraged. Not Christians generally, not Catholics particularly, who have largely given up on violent protest and death threats. It is sensational because we know that people will die for this petulant and stupid act of constitutionally protected free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which aggressively involves itself in the protection of our 1st Amendment rights nearly everywhere, has been conspicuously silent on the issue of Floridian Koran burning.
Perhaps, as IowaHawk’s David Burge tweeted, they could engage themselves if the pastor wrapped the book in an American flag before he burned it.