In a way it's not unlike the concept of 'religion' -- a whole lot of people have a whole lot invested to the point where it defines their ideals and perceptions of the world.
Sometimes to self-destructive ends.
See 'Freedom' of any sort is a tricky thing 'cause it seems that often in our expression of our needs to be 'free' we find ourselves stepping on the needs of others.
And, unfortunately, it seems that 'watching where you step' is the least of a lot of people's worries these days.
I bring all this up because I've found myself thinking about 'Freedom of Speech' a lot lately. Not only about how this idea is impacting the world around me but also where I stand on the concept.
You see, I've always been a huge proponent that we should be free to say whatever we wish whenever we want -- no matter what little tidbit we have on our minds, we should be free to it shout from the rooftops at our leisure.
With one proviso: As long as we're willing to accept the consequences.
And think that's really getting toward the heart of what's been bugging me about this whole 'Free Speech' argument lately.
To me it seems like a whole mess of people have it in their heads that because it's called 'Free Speech' and because it is 'their right' that they should somehow be released from the ramifications of their actions.
That we should be able to say whatever we want to whomever we want and if you don't like it... well, suck it up 'cause 'it's my right'.
I recently saw a video that I thought I would take differently -- it disturbed me on a number of levels but not in the way I thought it would. I'm still figuring it out... but I think a lot of it comes down to these thoughts of mine that I've been having.
Warning: The video below has lots of yelling, swearing, angry people - some violence and some nudity.
In the video, Swedish artist Lars Vilks shows a video of Muhammad as a gay man (complete with man-on-man tongue-kissing and more) - to a room full of Muslim men, woman and children.
And yet, when this situation was described to me that part was left out. It was given to me with the context of a bunch of angry Muslims beating the crap out of a poor, simple artist.
And that's true. Well, at least the 'beating' part.
What they forgot to mention was that, to a room full of previously quiet people he blared an obnoxiously loud, aggressive piece of film that was utterly designed to provoke outrage in Muslim people.
Simply put: I wasn't given the whole story. I got one person's spin on what I was 'supposed' to see.
But I didn't see that.
Heck, even now, after doing my own research into it I'm sure I don't have the full story -- were the Muslim people there with their children knowing he would be playing something like this? Was it a bait and switch? What happened before Mr. Vilks started to play the film?
There are a lot of unanswered questions.
But to sit there and paint it as one innocent man beaten for no reason... I'm sorry I can't say that I agree. This video may have been designed to inspire thought and discussion, but the artists use of it... well, it felt like an attack to me.
As Thumper once learned a long time ago - and as so many grandma's are wont to say:
"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all".
And I think it's a sentiment that's gone into hiding as of late as so many agendas try to push themselves to the forefront. EDIT: To clarify, this is not necessarily the idea that we should 'shut up' but more to the extent that we should be 'mindful' of each other.
See, while some have gone on to declare a 'Everyone draw Muhammad Day' to protest the anger at Muslims not being cool about their Prophet being depicted (even though, historically, Muhammad's been depicted by their own artists for hundreds of years), others have done a lot worse, beating on and/or hurting the first 'Muslims' they see.
While some have gone on to attack (or kill) those who would dare to 'deface' their Prophet, others have quietly written that this all getting out of hand.
It's like we're on the edge of a divide that's only growing, pulling in moderates from both sides as each side pushes things farther -- with bat-shit crazy antics like the recent 'South Park' threats turning hundreds of thousands of people into hating 'Muslims' when, in actual fact, most moderate Muslims were just as shocked and appalled by the threat as anyone.
And I feel like its a situation that's being created needlessly; That there's this push-and-push-back mentality that's growing for no other reason than to be confrontational or to force one's will against the other.
It's like there's this culture clash where both sides are saying 'this is how we believe the world should be' and a whole lot of people who normally wouldn't give a shit are being pulled into the crossfire as each side escalates their actions.
No we shouldn't have to curb the way we talk or think for extremists -- and certainly those who lost their shit over the original Muhammad cartoon (which, in my opinion was in bad taste) were extremists -- but now we're getting into a situation where some of us who disagree with the extremists are becoming belligerent and rude for no other reason than to spark anger and outrage.
Yes, some call it 'sparking debate'... sure, call it what you want. But it's obvious that a growing number of people don't want to debate this right now. It's still a sensitive topic.
I guess what I'm saying is that, really, it comes down to Respect.
And you don't have to 'understand' something to respect it.
Muslims - not all, but enough - have shown they're not cool right now with their Prophet being depicted in pictures; Certainly not as a terrorist (which is what that original cartoon was) and definitely not as a gay man.
Is that 'right'?
That's not our call, it's their culture.
I personally don't agree with some of the ideas and actions that are prevalent on Islam's treatment of women -- but it's not up to me to solve their problems. When women have had enough of this treatment (and there is a growing movement) they will free themselves. Does that mean I don't care about them? Absolutely not. Does that mean that I'm not outraged over 'honour killings' or gay men and women being beaten to death? No.
If someone asks for help, that's a whole other story.
However, for right now we've been told that it's a wound and that it's still sore -- yet many are out there still punching at it.
If that's what you want to do, that's fine. Say what you want. But know that you're doing so AFTER a whole whack of people have asked you not to.
Be honest with yourself, acknowledge and accept WHY you're doing these things.
Are you REALLY doing it to 'educate' and 'protect'? Are you trying to impose your will on a 'lesser' way of life or thought? Or are you venting an intense anger over a situation that feels both oppressive and beyond your control?
I mean, think of it this way for a moment:
It's like if I came up to you and started yelling in your face for no reason (subliminal message of the day: not all Muslims are extremists).
You ask me to stop but I just laugh at you because 'it's my right'. (It's not, but sure, why not, let's roll with it for a second.)
I've got that freedom to speak, sure.
But now I'm just being an asshole.
And where does that get anyone?
I think we need to take a moment and just breathe here - let the pulse rates drop a tad and just try to look at things from each other's perspective. There's a line of communication that's not being made.
And hey, if that connection can't be made right now then I think we should all just do our best to default to being the same decent human beings we (okay, most of us) usually are.
'Cause just because you can say something, doesn't mean you should.