I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to stop watching the news lately. The storming of the embassies in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya have me worried about the very real threat of war. I wonder if this could be that tipping point moment, much like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was for World War I or the bombing of Pearl Harbor was for World War II. Will our grandchildren look back and say, “That was it. That was the moment when everything changed?” And all because of some offensive, amateur video?
It would be funny, if it wasn’t so frightening.
I tried to explain it to my children and the only way I could come up with was to talk about playground bullies. When Florida-based evangelical Christian pastor, Terry Jones decided to create a video that was deeply insulting to Islam, it was like he had his thumbs against his cheeks with his fingers waving and his tongue out. You could almost hear him saying, “Nah-nah.”
And the bedraggled, embittered Muslims who view themselves as the victims of constant teasing have finally had enough. They are fighting back the only way they know how: kicking and screaming.
Just like playground dynamics everywhere, it is the kid who lashes out in violence that will be condemned. The taunter? Somehow he’ll get away with it.
If only we mothers could come together and sternly, but lovingly, say, “Enough!”
And of course, timing is everything. The trailer for the video was supposedly released earlier this summer. At the time, it had a a few thousand views. Then someone in the Muslim world decided to translate it right around 9-11 and page views are now over a million. All of it is stoking anti-American/anti-Muslim sentiment – a match to tinder that it is on its way to becoming a firestorm.
We managed to “dodge a bullet” by not erupting into a full-blown World War after the horrific events eleven years ago. Can we do that this time? Our baser instincts might call us to respond, hit back, show them “who’s who.” But, is that really the answer?
If we really are the example of Exceptionalism we so ardently want to believe, then shouldn’t we show the world how to behave when a bully is taunting you. You don’t taunt them and you don’t hit back. You seek to understand and then you calmly walk away.
So far restraint seems to be response by the current administration. I have my fingers crossed President Obama will listen to the words of Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who, after the attack by Anders Behring Breivik, said,
“We are still horrified over what happened. But we will never give up our values. Our answer is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.”
We can only hope.