The Fair-Weather Bigot

I’m going to get a little political here, and I don’t know that much about law and politics, so I apologize, but I’m going to do it anyway. Also, please keep in mind I live in Japan, so my news is on a 3-5 day delay unless it involves sumo scandals or former J-pop stars caught with drugs.

So it seems a week or 2 ago a Florida pastor named Terry Jones organized and advertised a proposed Koran burning on September 11. I don’t know the details, but September 11 passed by without any Koran burning in Southern Florida. The good pastor canceled the event. There are 2 possible explanation. Either Pastor Jones got scared because the backlash and negative public pressure, or he never planned to do it from the beginning and just used it as a publicity stunt. For the rest of the article I’m going to assume the former is the case, since the latter is a fairly poorly planned marketing campaign. Any extra parishioners attracted by a promised Koran burning would probably be promptly disillusioned by the event’s cancellation. It is also conceivable the pastor had a change of heart, but I’m a pessimist so let’s not even entertain that thought.

Assuming Pastor Terry Jones genuinely planned and wanted to burn Korans, but canceled the party due to public pressure, I’d like to say something. Burning the Koran is a bad thing. No question. But deciding not to burn a Koran due to public pressure is even worse. All it does is reveal you to be a fair-weather bigot with paper-thin ideals. If you believe in something, do it. You’re allowed to demonstrate your beliefs in America. Show the world how narrow-minded and stupid you are! No need to hide.

What we have here is an opportunistic sectarian, who probably watched too much FOX news coverage concerning certain NYC mosque zoning plans, and got the mistaken idea unabashed Islam hating was en vogue.  Unfortunately, he jumped on the bandwagon a little too late, when the anti-NYC-mosque fervor had already died down. But there’s more. Pastor Jones’ big mistake was he didn’t realize there are degrees to bigotry. Devoting whole hours of negative news coverage to a proposed Muslim community 5 subway stops from the site of the World Trade Center is ok. After all, they can still worship Allah anywhere else, we’re not infringing on any existing right.  We’re just stopping them from building this specific mosque in this specific location. Exception to every rule, right? Makes perfect sense if you’re white and racist. But burning a religion’s holy book?! Totally different. Hard to argue you still respect Islam, and have nothing against Muslims in general etc. if you’re burning the Koran, is it? Plus, who hasn’t been involved in zoning disputes? Blocking a proposed mosque is really no different than stopping your neighbor from erecting that 12 foot tall fence that infringes on your property line. It would lower your home’s value by at least 12%! But book burning? No points of reference for that, unless you’re German and in your 70’s.

Which brings us to today’s theme: the low-calorie bigot, a phenomenon Pastor Jones failed to take into account when he tried to schedule a Koran burning. The no caffeine added racist likes to keep his true feelings to himself. He doesn’t act on his ignorance because he doesn’t want to be thought of as a bad person. But when easy, indirect opportunities to display hatred present themselves, he takes them. He renames French fries “Freedom Fries” when French people don’t want to support our manufactured wars. He votes to allow police forces to racially profile Latino immigrants (not on the same day he pays them $50 to landscape his 2.5-acre lawn, of course). He votes to ban gay marriage in California because being gay is totally cool and fine, yo. He probably has several gay friends, in fact. Just as long as they keep it to themselves. And when he sees a news story about  a Muslim **** build*****near*****World Trade Center*****. He gets mad, and protests. Why? Because all the above provide easy, anonymous avenues to act upon his true feelings. But lining up outside a church in Florida, no doubt with news vans nearby, and burning a Koran? The fair-weather bigot tucks his tail between his legs and stays home.

I’m not addressing the news and political figures who manufacture the above situations. They have their own set of incentives, and that’s a whole different discussion. But the target audience of news stories that feed upon uninformed patriotism is made up of people like Pastor Terry Jones. People who get on their podium, whether it be a pulpit or the family couch holding a beer, and proclaim the superiority and righteousness of their own ideals over others’, while never actually acting on those sentiments. To be clear, I do not support book burning, nor do I wish Pastor Terry Jones had gone through on his plans to burn the Koran. Honestly, I wish he had just shut up to begin with. But if Terry Jones does truly believe Jesus himself would have burned a Koran, and that Islam is such a terrible institution, then by all means burn that book. Hold your protests. Grow some balls, and act on your ideals. You are allowed to, as long as your actions do no break state and federal laws.

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