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September 16, 2010

Through The Looking Glass Again

Patricia A. Kelly

The world definitely moves in mysterious ways, a case in point being the furor over Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. Pastor Jones has a mere 50 families as congregants, and according to last Friday’s CNN News, may have bilked his former German congregation of thousands of dollars before being relieved of his duties and returning to his old haunts in Gainesville.


The man is an obvious crackpot and a possible thief, undeserving of worldwide news coverage.


Does anyone see the contrast between “Dove Outreach Center” and “Islam is of the Devil,” the two signs posted on the property of Pastor Jones’ church? How about the contrast between “Dove Outreach Center” and a gun-toting pastor?


Has anyone besides the congregants left, disillusioned, behind in Germany considered the likelihood that this is simply Pastor Jones’ latest attempt to go down in history? Is anyone doing anyone a favor by helping him get his way?


Apparently this whole thing became public because of a posting on Facebook, a sad reminder of the downside of modern technology and 24/7 news coverage.


I can’t imagine that, 40 years ago, a crackpot like Pastor Jones would make the news at all, let alone inspire worldwide demonstrations. He, especially in the South, would probably have been picked up by the local sheriff, had a good talking to, maybe spent a night or two in jail for the public good, and then been released after promising to behave. Even now, a charge of reckless endangerment could be applicable.


Thanks to the build-up of the story by the world press, even President Barack Obama is giving him attention, saying that this little man can cause violence against Americans throughout the world.


What our president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General Daniel Petraeus should be doing is calling on the world to ignore this individual and behave like sensible adults. In a country such as ours, personal freedom is a very strong value. Once in a while, an individual shows poor judgment, but, as a country, we should expect the world to get that this does not implicate our entire society.


This is the same society that is allowing a mosque to be built near the site of the World Trade Center bombings of 9/11/2001. This, of course, has also become the subject of a huge, mostly right-wing media firestorm, but would have been no problem if New York had been able to get itself together enough to develop the primary site first, instead of arguing incessantly.


Pastor Jones is not causing anything. Whether to respond violently to someone so insignificant is a personal decision on the part of those who choose violence. Pastor Jones, by himself, is not powerful or representative enough to cause anything. The world should unite in decrying violence as a response, rather than suggesting it would be caused by Pastor Jones’ admittedly egregious behavior.


Interestingly, footage showing protests in Afghanistan include the burning of the American flag. No one on the newscast said a word about that.


Now, an insignificant man, who could, under Maryland law, be held for 72 hours in a psychiatric facility as a potential danger to himself or others after his statement that God is sending him messages to burn Qurans, may get to meet with the developer of the Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site. It makes my head hurt.


No one, of course, should be burning anyone’s sacred writings, or anyone’s flags. Doing so, however, does not cause violence.


The media has created a celebrity, and a threat, out of someone very small. It doesn’t really matter whether the Qurans are burned or not. The actual book is only paper, just as are the Bible and the Torah. No one can ever really destroy sacred writings, or the symbol that is the United States flag, unless we give them power over us. The world has given that to a little man. The uproar has caused as much harm as any burning ever could.


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