Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Freedom of expression

With the uproar over the “Ground Zero” Muslim center and “Burn a Koran Day”, I can’t recall when in recent history (in the US) there was a time that tolerance for other cultures and beliefs was tested as much.

The fact that a group can propose to build a religious center close to a hallowed area with full support of the mayor of that city is in itself a testament to the strength of our beliefs. The same is true of the Florida pastor wanting to burn Korans. While there is a lot of opposition to what he wants to do, there really isn’t any doubt in anybody’s mind that he has the right to do it.

In most any other place in the world the situation wouldn’t have come to this. Depending on the views of the powers that be, groups not falling in line would have been shut down a long time back.  Not in America though. The freedoms that we have are being sorely tested but still stand.

The problem is not that we have these freedoms but that abusing them is so easy. The highly polarized social and political environment makes it easy to vilify those not agreeing with you. The louder you are, the more attention you get. In this shock-value, media frenzy driven culture, it pays to be obnoxious.

As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Do we really want a society where you can be taken to task for just expressing your point of view? Is despotism what we are after? Or, do we pause, think, consider the other party’s point of view, before we open our mouths?

In both the “Ground Zero Muslim Center” and the “Burn the Koran” controversies, perhaps it would have been a good idea for people to consider the wisdom of their actions before doing/proposing anything. Is media attention what they are after? If so, we can do better than to encourage the media frenzy.

We are citizens of a free society. To preserve our freedom we need to have personal responsibility and wisdom. Both are sadly lacking.