Pat Buchanan on The Cartoon Wars

February 16, 2006

The name of Pat Buchanan is one I've always found easy to love to hate (in the celebrity/personality sense, not personally). I had never met a statement from him that I didn't disagree with — until today. A syndicated column called The Cartoon Wars goes to show how important it is to keep an open mind and really listen to people, even when their general beliefs are different than your own. Score one for intra-cultural dialogue.

As well as anyone I've seen (that is, any Westerner), Buchanan gets the core of Muslims' problem with the cartoons when he writes, "Those cartoons – insulting, blasphemous, provocative to Muslims – have wiped out much of what Bush had accomplished [ed: building goodwill]. The cartoons have given the Muslim radicals visible proof to show the masses that the West mocks what they hold sacred."

Not surprisingly, his explicit purpose in condemning the publication of these cartoons is to promote American interests in the Middle East, concluding, "And if we are unwilling to curb our tongues when it comes to their faith, or to condemn those among us who use their freedom to insult the Islamic religion, we should probably pack up and get out of the Middle East. Before they throw us out."

It is also interesting to see Buchanan recognizing the positive intensity of Muslim faith, saying, "given our pathetic protests of Hollywood sacrileges such as "The Last Temptation of Christ," one could argue that Muslims are simply more devout and resolute in defense of their faith than the milquetoast Christians of modernity." As a member of a minority religion in the US I'm not usually inclined to support more fervent displays of faith by the majority. But so long as that devotion and resolute defense of faith do not violate the separation of Church and State (and thus enforce itself upon me), I'm all for people becoming more authentic in their faith practice.

It makes me sad that his reason for condemnation is based on "winning hearts and minds" rather than promoting harmony and peace, but our means are aligned and the ends will be what they are regardless of what either of us want. So I'm willing to step forward in agreeing with him that we must — regardless of Tehrani holocaust cartoons, irrespective of postcards with the Prophet in the street markets of Islamabad, unconcerned by the violent protests of a minority of Islamic peoples — we must absolutely, morally, condemn the publication of "speech" that is so clearly intended to inflame the deepest beliefs of one sixth of the globe's population. So long as that condemnation is moral and not legal, doing so will keep us true to our own deep belief in the freedom of speech.