Whenever I find myself swelling with a pleasant sense of righteous indignation, I wonder what exactly I’m getting wrong.
Thus, for instance, when I hear that Afghans and other Muslims are rioting and murdering people — including American soldiers — because the American military burned some Korans at Bagram Airfield in Kabul, I try very hard not to harrumph and start spouting such banalities as: “Ungrateful savages and their benighted religion! Ought to be gunned down, the lot of them!” Sure, the Korans had already been defaced by detainees trying to send extremist messages. And yes, American officials from the president down to a guy cleaning latrines at FOB Kalagush have apologized profusely. But before we condemn the rioters, American flag burners and murderers out of hand, let’s be fair.
After all, it was not that long ago, that this very blog — from which I get most of my information — included a post paying homage to the Jews of ancient Palestine, who stood up to the Romans in defense of what, to the Romans, must have seemed a pretty intolerant and backward faith. I argued that it was this very Jewish intransigence, later refined by Jesus, that ultimately gave rise to our western conviction that the religious conscience of man is sacred and deserves protection from rulers of all stripes. (Unless it gets in the way of my scoring some free abortion pills, in which case forget I said anything.)
Now you may respond: “But the Jews of ancient Palestine never wanted to spread their religion to the world. Plus, they took their stand 2,000 years ago and Jews have learned a thing or two since then. In fact, Jews, singly and en masse, are now among the greatest contributors to the good of mankind the world has ever known, whereas the Muslims invented coffee and then called it a day.” To which I would say: “Shut up. Who let you onto my blog?” Because you have to admit that these Afghan riots really could be a scene right out of Josephus. An imperial power — the Romans/us — marches into a backward nation — Palestine/Afghanistan — insults their religion — Judaism/Islam — and sets off exactly the kind of behavior one would expect from the locals — the defense of religious freedom/chaos and murder.
What else do you expect? Pre-medieval people who believe they are called by God to reduce the rest of the world to their own state of misery are going to kill people when you insult them. That’s how they roll.
The problem isn’t them. It’s us.