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.

LDS Living – W.S. Journal: Muslims, Mormons and liberals.

9 Comments on “Sometimes Democracy Means Not Having To Say “I’m Sorry”

  1. Hi Lana.. that is a very interesting topic. And as a foreigner living in America this is something I struggle with. I was stunned at the Chick-fil-A reaction and was surprised to see that people felt they needed to “support” freedom of speech by going out and buying something. (I was secretly wondering if this was not a clever marketing idea by Chick-fil-A). When I look at the news here I sometimes feel that “Freedom” is used quiet often as an excuse for stupid things people want to do or say instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. For example the uproar on gun control and that it is not the gun that kills the people but the person behind it, after the shooting in Colorado and the Sikh temple. I agree that freedom of speech should never lead to violence. But I do feel that if you use your freedom of speech or any other freedom you also need to take responsibility for your actions and words and the consequences thereof. I think it is the same principle that we teach our children.

    • Yes, Meike, you make an excellent point. It must be really interesting to be a foreigner in America (especially during election season). And yes, Americans do vote with their wallets (i.e.. Chick-fil-a) we are capitalists and money talks. On your other point, of course I would like to regulate people from saying/promoting stupid things, but the hope is that people will also be educated enough, I suppose, to see through the idiocy of stupid actions. This film was made in some low budget studio with only a few backers, as I understand. It wasn’t a film promoted by the US government yet because of this ridiculous film that no one would pay money to see, there is uprising to the degree of murdering people. When I look at it side by side, Stupid Film, 4 American’s dead, I just can’t see the logic, or how a religion could take something like this so seriously. It was dumb but did it necessitate this level of protesting? No way.

      • I agree that violence is never the answer to anything hurtful or disrespectful that anyone says. And it is sad to see an outburst of violence upon something like this. I remember that last year (or was it the year before??.. i am getting old…) there were a couple of weeks with awful violent riots in London and other areas of UK. And it was started by the police shooting a (black) man that was planning an attack. It is scary to think that violence is so easily sparked in todays society.
        As to your point about hoping that people are educated enough to see through stupidity. I would hope they are. But I have also been surprised to see so many uneducated people here (and this is just my perspective of things I experience here in the south). The other day at the doctors office I was asked how i want to be informed about how to take prescriptions etc. I looked at the nurse and it took me a couple of minutes to figure out why she was asking me this question… because there are people out there that cannot read or write.

      • Oh dear, you’re in the deep south. I’ve heard stories. Well, I suppose we could start another conversation about education now. Sigh…But yes, violence is sparked much too easily. And the ironic part is this is in the name of religion.

        Sent from my iPad

    • Lana and Meike…I’ve been thinking about your post Lana and your comment Meike, all morning long. This is complicated stuff and I am challenging myself to be brief since this isn’t my own blogspot. This is a new day we live in, where technology has forced us into a global community while our own human social skills have sadly, not been able to keep up. While I completely agree with Meike’s statement that we need to be responsible for the consequences of engaging in our Right to Free Speech, it’s difficult to say how an entire nation can be responsible for the choices of a few. Perhaps the consequences manifest themselves in a need for greater diplomacy in Foreign Relations? Thanks to both of you for shedding some light on this issue, and Lana, God keep you and your family safe.

      • Thanks for making the point I was trying to make…as a nation we can’t be held responsible for the actions of one film maker, not if we want to be a free country with free speech. God keep us safe and the US Marines.

  2. Hi Lana!
    I love reading your blogs and updates. I think about you and your family all the time.
    I am curious to hear your perspective on the current news in the Middle East. They’re now saying that it’s terrorism and this video has little to do with the uproar and killing of the ambassador and other 3 Americans. What is your insight?

    • These protests defy logic, I mean we want to think it’s about terrorism (and it is) but it’s also Muslims finding a way to vent and taking to the streets over this film. Our bankrupt Washington spent $70,000 on an ad on Pakistani TV, featuring President Obama and Hilary Clinton denouncing the film and affirming our religious tolerance. Do you think they care? The ad was rejected as not being harsh enough, they want the film maker punished and in their language that means “killed.” The Muslim extremists cannot be reasoned with or bought by commercials or the millions in aid we give to their countries. They differ in ideology and methodology and if they had it their way we’d all be living under Sharia law. We are America and we don’t kill people in this country for saying things we don’t like. These protest have been just below the boiling point and the film cranked up the heat. I think in the next few weeks we could see more attempts of terrorism and our policy should remain that we do not tolerate any such acts on our citizens.

      • I agree with your bottom line Lana. While America can be a bit grandiose and self-absorbed at times, our fundamental belief in personal freedom is a God-given right that EVERY human should enjoy. Many don’t, and that is a travesty, but we as a Nation need to stand behind what it means to be free, and in a true and free democracy, the expectation is that people can say what they want, and everyone else needs to be responsible for their own positive or negative reaction.

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