Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

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Why We Shouldn’t Stop Rev. Jones’ Quran Burning Party

09.08.10

Rising from the still-smoldering debate over the legitimacy of the Park51 community center is the Rev. Terry Jones’ proposed “Burn A Quran Day,” scheduled for this Saturday, September 11th.  Just like the name implies, from six to nine in the evening, people will gather to set copies of the Islamic holy text ablaze to show their opposition to the faith held by the radicals who attacked New York City nine years ago.

Jones’ plans have been met with considerable opposition of their own by just about everyone in the State Department and even from the military — General Petraeus warned that this very act could harm our efforts to control Afghanistan, even endangering our troops.

This hasn’t deterred Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center church.

Jones, who has about 50 followers, gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his small church declaring “Islam is of the Devil.” But his Quran-burning scheme attracted wider attention… The Quran, according to Jones, is “evil” because it espouses something other than biblical truth and incites radical, violent behavior among Muslims.

Religious freedom sure is an odd thing, isn’t it?  People want it when it suits them, but want ways around it when it doesn’t.  It’s part of the freedom’s brilliance and why it’s so vital to our Constitution.  Just like the Muslims have the right to build their mosque near Ground Zero, Jones and his own crew radicals have the right to burn some books.  Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion, however you want to slice it: they have the right to do this.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it an effective, worthwhile use of time.  Combating extremism with more extremism isn’t going to work.  Not to get all squishy, but you can’t beat hate with more hate.  You can’t beat ignorance with more ignorance.  You beat brutality with civility.  You overcome oppression with freedom.  You trump prejudice with acceptance.

What people don’t want to realize is that conflating all Muslims into radical terrorists is the same fallacy as Muslims condemning all Americans as infidels.  So, by blaming the entire religion of Islam for the terror attacks, Rev. Jones and his followers are responding to the mentality with which they disagree by adopting that exact mentality themselves. There’s very little in the way of logic going on here — it’s simply an “I’m right, they’re wrong” line of thinking.  No rationality required.

Another paradox is that these 50-odd people and their inflammatory plans for Saturday really could’ve just come and gone without much notice from anyone, except the media exploded this thing to the point where all levels of government voiced their opinions, it’s all over the news, all over the blogosphere.  It’s everywhere.  We could’ve all ignored Jones and his followers’ sad, unfortunate response to tragedy and they would’ve faded away without much of a whimper — no television stories for people abroad to see and misinterpret.

Although, that’s never going to happen — nor should it necessarily.  It is a news story, after all.  But does it require the amount of national exposure that it’s receiving?

People wonder why others hate Americans and then when snippets of news of Americans burning Qurans flood the airwaves, it’s not hard to see why they might be too fond of us.  Because just like how we only catch glimpses and read certain stories about what kind of people they are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and Palestine, you have to figure that people in those countries only catch glimpses and read certain stories about us, too.  And who knows what is being passed off to them as representative of Americans as a whole. Odds are that if there’s video footage of a bunch of Floridians burning Qurans gleefully, claiming that the entire faith is of the devil (remind you much of Ahmadinejad calling America the “Great Satan” at all?), that will make it over to those Islamic nations with which we’re firmly entrenched overseas.

While we can’t stop the Dove World Outreach Center from their Quran-burning plans, we can do our part to embrace our diversity and focus on remaining rational in the face of these highly emotional times.  Let them burn their books.  Because when has that ever changed people’s minds?  The beliefs aren’t in the books; they’re in people’s minds and hearts. They won’t accomplish anything good with their pointless, crude event, so why give them a soapbox any bigger than they already have?  Our efforts are best served doing something else, something productive, something positive.

If we continue to do more and more things that promote tolerance, acceptance, rationality, and – ultimately – positivity, we can outshine any blaze by the loud, radical outliers.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele — All Rights Reserved.  And no, it has nothing to do with this post other than it makes me happy.  And we need more of that in the world, right now especially.

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Obama Teaching Students? PLEASE GOD NO!

09.03.09

This Yahoo! news article comes out at a perfect time.  A day when statuses all over Facebook have been posted announcing the desire for health care reform.  A day when Rudy Ruiz writes a commentary arguing that the problem with America is the demonization of those who change their opinions or stances on issues after learning new information.

President Obama will be giving a speech about education directly aimed at students and that has caused a giant uproar from the political right.  When the president speaks to a small group at a town hall meeting, it’s okay.  Or when he announces his plans, goals, and hopes on national television, it’s okay.  But the minute he speaks to our youth, to those who will be running the country in the very near future, then it’s indoctrination.  Worse, it’s brainwashing.

Really?  Oh right.  Having an extremely well-educated man who finished at the top of his class all the way through Harvard Law and who also just so happens to be the overwhelmingly elected President of the United States clearly shouldn’t be speaking about the state of education to those who are actually participants in our education system.

So what’s the issue? That our children are so impressionable as to completely change their beliefs to blindly following whatever it is that Obama has to say?  That’s laughable.  It’s pathetic, really, and it shows just how clueless we are.  Kids are smart.  A lot of kids like to question authority.  How many kids do you know just blindly follow whatever their teachers say?  If they did, administration sure wouldn’t have much to do when it came to discipline.

This makes it obvious that it’s just more of the common and absurd partisan politics:

“The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President’s agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President’s initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.” – Jim Greer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Since when does listening to a speech obligate anyone to agree to everything that person has to say?  On the contrary, this speech precisely allows for a healthy debate about the state of our education system.  In any discussion, someone needs to bring it up, and here our president is being proactive about getting the ball rolling since we all know just about all Republicans will automatically disagree with him just because he’s a Democrat.

The reality is that Jim Greer speaks for the Republican Party by essentially admitting that the youth will agree with the president’s ideas, which are contrary to those of the conservatives.  The younger generation helped give Obama a landslide victory and the GOP knows that this isn’t an anomaly. And again the attack is against Obama himself and not even the issues at hand.  We don’t even know what Obama will say!  He hasn’t even given the speech yet and the Republicans have already – by this outrage – announced that they completely disagree with what he has to say.  If that’s not indicative of what’s wrong with our political environment, I don’t know what is.

Also, since the speech is only recommended, not required, viewing, not all classes will be seeing it.  Sadly.  I’m sure many public schools in highly conservative areas of the country will cave to the pressure and not air the speech, which is so contrary to the whole idea of education.  Whether or not you agree with all of his positions on hot button issues, it’s still the President of the United States.  Listening to his speeches can only be good for education – it’s a chance to discuss the American political system, the power of the media, the role of the president.  The numbers of things that could be learned by this event are countless.  To not use this as an opportunity to teach our youth would be an ironic outcome of this event and one that speaks pretty loudly to the state of our educational system before Obama even says a word.

Let’s keep focused on the issues.  Let’s debate them with educated opinions based on facts and reality.  Let’s make it okay to have common ground again instead of this notion that one side always has to concede some things to another group just for the feeling of saving face and scrambling for power.  We aren’t all black and white on these issues.  The sooner we realize that, the better we’ll be.