Sometimes Democracy Means Not Having To Say “I’m Sorry”
It feels different now, in the year 2012, to be an American living overseas than it did back in 1999 when we first embarked on our tour to Greece. That was before the Euro Zone, before 9-11, before I even knew Al-Qaeda existed. You only have to glance up at the barbed wire fence surrounding the Stockholm Embassy to know the United States faces security risks. Naturally, I don’t like to think of our country as having enemies, but we have to see things for what they are, not for what we wish they would be.
This weekend I was downtown shopping and happened to see a demonstration in Stockholm, Muslims holding their flags aloft, forming a circle, chanting in Arabic. I have no idea what they were saying, but it sounded like a call to action, or at the very least an angry protest. Crowds similar to this have been forming across the globe, denouncing the anti-Islam film in the streets of Sydney, Pakistan, Beirut (many more) and of course Libya where terrorists carried out an attack on the Ambassador and killed 3 other Americans—a reprehensible tragedy.
It seems the film has tapped into a much deeper anti-American sentiment or that Muslims were waiting for something to channel their anger and then…along came this D-rate low budget movie on Muhammad, with dubbed voices and bad acting, (I’m told), and rioting erupts. But no matter how inane the movie is, or how insulting, no one should be targeted and killed for it and our government doesn’t need to apologize for stupid citizens doing stupid things. It’s our right as Americans to express our opinions, even if no one likes them, even if their ignorant viewpoints are designed to be inflammatory.
We can’t on one hand uphold democracy, as a standard, and on the other apologize for the results of that very democracy—a freedom that brings with it free speech. As Americans we have the right to do dumb stuff. It doesn’t say that exactly in the Bill of Rights, but it’s implicit. If you haven’t seen it yet, there is a great piece by Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal, comparing the Mormons’ reaction to satirical and crude references of their religion, (i.e. The Book of Mormon Musical, which Hilary Clinton attended last year) and that of Muslims. No one is apologizing to Mormons, as Stephens points out, but they’re not going to kill you either.