Why don’t you have a seat over there? Thanks.
Back in aught-one, the US was attacked. Planes, towers, Pentagon, “Let’s roll” – you know the story. Hell, there are probably hill tribes in Borneo who know the story. The point is, we were attacked in a way we never expected to be. It hurt us. It scared us. And on that day, our reaction was to freak the hell out.
We really lost our shit over this, passing laws that five years prior would have sounded like something out of a tinfoil hat conspiracy newsletter. We launched two wars, one of which was completely unreasonable, and the other of which has been the longest in our history. We allowed our anger and terror to get the better of us, and by doing so we handed victory to the forces that had attacked us. It’s unfortunate, but it’s an all-too-human reaction. Quick, reflexive decision-making may have been what saved our ancient ancestors in Africa all those millennia ago, who knows?That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now. Very little good has come from the decisions made in the aftermath of 9/11, and if we had it all to do over again (not that I’m offering, mind you), I should hope that we’d handle the situation with more care and greater forethought.
Why do I bring this up? Well, because you have fallen into the same trap that we did. You were insulted and outraged by this inane video, produced by a puffed-up religious bigot who thinks it’s funny to incite international incidents. And you reacted without thinking, lashing out not at the people who actually made the video, but at a target only barely related to them at all. Like I said – we get that. We’re the United States. That’s kind of our thing.
Osama bin Laden told the world that we were reactionary, violent warmongers, and we fulfilled that image. Terry Jones told the world that Muslims were an irrational, murderous mob, and you have fulfilled that image as well. You have, as we did, accepted your antagonist’s vision of who you are.
If it were just confined to you, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, your actions tarnish the reputations of a whole lot of people who aren’t you. Just as there were many Americans who opposed post-9/11 policy-making, there are many Muslims who think what you did was an abomination. And just as the Bush administration tainted the image of The United States, you have tainted the image of Muslims which, at least in the U.S., really doesn’t need to take any more abuse.The real takeaway from it is this: attacking a U.S. embassy and killing an ambassador isn’t going to do a damned thing except ensure the prompt delivery of a group of very angry Marines. Terry Jones won’t change his ways – hell, you’ve basically confirmed all his prejudices against you – and you’ve managed to make life a lot harder for that vast population of Muslims and Arabs who aren’t screaming maniacs.
Anger is understandable – some jackass openly mocked your sacred traditions. I get that. But there are limits to the acceptable expression of anger, and killing people who had nothing to do with what made you angry, well, that’s out of bounds. And now a whole lot of people who were perfectly willing to get along are going to have to play damage control just because you have problems expressing your rage appropriately.
You have to be better than the people who have attacked you. It’s a lesson the U.S. has had a hard time learning – hell, it’s a lesson that can vex any human being. But it’s vital if we’re ever going to see an end to people like Terry Jones. He needed your rage and you gave him a feast. From now on, don’t feed the trolls.