The events of the last couple of days are a stark reminder that you reap what you sow.  The United States is now paying the supreme price for our arrogance in dealing with the Islamic people of the Near East (I use the old term for a reason) has resulted in neither stability nor democracy.  We do not understand the Arab world; we do not understand Islam.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that Arabs are no different than us—rational by western standards, influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethic and a believer in the concept of the state ascending over tribalism.  They are rational, but by the standards of their culture, history, and religion.  They are not western.  They are tribal.  Religion is the central part of their life.  The concept of and loyalty to a nation state is accepted in the abstract but does not transcend their tribe or family.  But they are rational actors.  They do not like foreigners.  They accept the tenets of their religion with fervor of belief.

We are reaping what we sowed.

I have no idea who produced the film on the Prophet Muhammad.  Were their actions honorable or not?  Could it be a grand plan of disinformation—perhaps—what then was its purpose?  Was it to drive a wedge between the United States and the greater Islamic world?  Was it to start a jihad against the west?  Was it designed to start a war against a religion that some claim is not a religion rather a radical political philosophy?

We do not know the answers to these questions, but what we do know is the anger of the middle east is firmly directed at the United States, that the actions of those who produced this film have consequences—the death of American’s serving their nation and placing the lives of thousands of Americans serving in the middle east.

As a nation we believe in the essential freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights.  We take these very seriously, especially those found in the First Amendment.  As individuals we sometime forget that those rights come with obligations.  One of those obligations with speech is restraint, as Justice Holmes once quipped; it does not give you a right to yell fire in a crowded theater.

The individuals who produced this film are only partially to blame; collectively as a nation we must accept responsibility because we are reaping what we sow.


4 thoughts on “We Reap What We Sow

  1. Two points to consider:
    1. The maker of the film was arrested. Had the film been about Scientology, or Christianity, he’d be at his favorite watering hole getting seed money for his next film. Who’s next? Calling this one for the terrorists. Terrorist 2, USA 0.

    2. There are many people who are neither muslim nor ignorant of Islam and its empire. We dismiss them out of hand for their lack of sophistication, their favoring of plain-speaking over erudition, their ignorance of Talleyrand and the Great Game, but knowledge of what can be found in a Super Wal-mart. But they know Islam, muslims, and do the simplest things: listen to muslims, and read what muslims write. We can’t even get the WH to synch its spin with the State Deparment. For accepting that muslims and Islam is opaque and westerners are too stupid to learn, calling this one for the terrorists too. Terrorists 3, USA 0.

  2. Hank, I’d suggest that, at least from one point of view, you’re statement (and please don’t take this as other than for argument’s sake) is as arrogant as the actions of those you decry. First, what we’re seeing is not the wholesale hatred of the US and the West, but, rather, a vocal and often violent minority – we need to be careful not to suspect all, or evne most, arabs and muslims hate us. Rather, I think what we’re seeing in this minority, more than anything else, is their inner frustration, and even fear and loathing – “How Can Allah’s Chosen Be So Low?” “What Have We Done That Would Cause Allah To Turn His Face From Us, To Cast Us Down From The Heights We Attained At The Feet Of Our Lessors, Praise Be To Allah?” They can’t do much more damage to themselves, so they’ve turned their hatred, fears, and frustration on the biggest target around – us. Even if we’d have tried to leave them alone, in their zeal to regain their former glory, their status as Allah’s Chosen, we’d be in conflict. To them (unlike, I want sincerely to believe), it truly is Dar al-Islam versus Dar al-Harb.

    • Gene,

      Appreciate your good comment. You are quite correct about this being the actions of a vocal minority; but actions nevertheless sanctioned by both secular and sectarian leadership in Arab world. What I am more concerned with is the sophomoric actions of Americans who fail to realize their actions have consequences–of course one must also considered that whomever is behind this film knew exactly what they were doing.

      • Hank, while I understand your concern, I’d suggest that, while the film ia an extreme example, muslim sensitivities and, quite frankly, double standard (as regards things non-Islamic), compounded by the very different belief most arabs have towards the Western concept of “free speech,” the West would have to severely curtail its speech and actions to significantly reduce the hazard this film epitomizes. What we have here is a cultural gulf that, I suspect, a signifcant number on both sides may never cross – the tension will always be there. Either the more rational (if that’s the word) on both sides learn to successfully dampen reactions when they arise, or things will only get worse.

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