Thursday, September 16, 2010

A few assorted related thoughts

I know you know about "skateboard-toting" Jacob Isom, the guy who snatched a copy of the Quran from David Grisham of the reactionary group "Repent Amarillo," and so preventing the pseudo-Christian bigot from burning it.
"I snuck up behind him and took his Quran," Isom told KFDA-TV. "He said something about burning the Quran. I said, 'Dude, you have no Quran,' and ran off."
Well, damn good for him and he deserves the happy notoriety he received. But there are three other bits about this, less noticed or discussed, on which I wanted to comment: One is that there were 200 people there - in Amarillo, Texas - to protest the planned burning. And some people put their hands on the grill where Grisham planned to do the deed to keep him from proceeding. There are good people everywhere.

Another is how the right wing, adhering to its Rule #3 for arguing ("When facts are undeniable, change the subject.") groused and grumped about Isom's act of "theft," later adding "assault" for flavor. Now, there was no more than incidental contact between Isom and Grisham, so there was no assault, and it'd probably be hard to push a case of theft when it involved an item the possession of which Grisham had so little interest in maintaining that he had already doused it with kerosene with the avowed intention of destroying it. But of course, that didn't matter to the wackos; anything to distract from the clear public opposition to Grisham's fanaticism.

But the thing I really wanted to mention was something from the video at the link. In what I assume is video from the local TV news, the Unitarian minister who organized the protest said it is a matter of "great dishonor to desecrate the sacred scriptures of any religious tradition."

Yes, but - jeez, can't we do any better than that? Haven't we, even now, even at this late date, learned about sound bites and effective use of the media? I bemoaned this same failing five years ago:
It's really sad how incompetent we on the left have become at expressing our ideas in the kind of language by which non-politically-involved people can be moved.

It wasn't always that way. William Jennings Bryan, before his fear of modernity and science turned him bitter, was a brilliant orator on behalf of progressive causes whose speeches, laced with religious references, sound stilted to us today but suited perfectly the style of the time. So, too, with Eugene Debs, whose style was bombastic but whose words and meaning were crystal clear to the workers on whose behalf he struggled. So, too, right up through the '60s there were those who understood the language of Main Street.

But for some reason, in the past couple of decades we have lost the touch. We have lost our sense of drama, we have lost our skill at rhetoric, we have lost our grasp of symbolism.
So you want the response to people like David Grisham and Terry Jones? You want the sound bite? Here it is:

Real Americans don't burn books.

That's it. That's the message. If you have the opportunity, you can add "Stalinists burn books. Nazis burn books. Real Americans do not. Burning books is un-American." If you have even more time, you can talk about religious freedom and tolerance and respect. But get that initial statement out there first.

The right wing has long since realized the political importance of the bumper-sticker sound bite. It's way past time we did as well.

2 comments:

DPirate said...

Sure, and real americans don't steal books either.

Actually, real americans are allowed to burn any book they like. It isn't a big deal except to fundamentalists. Christian fundies want to burn the koran and hate it when someone burns the bible. Muslim fundies hate the opposite. Why do you want "the left" to join anyone in this foolishness by picking a side?

No one sane ought to care what some jackass congregation wants to do on their holiday.

LarryE said...

I really wish people would think their comments through before they make them. If you had, this response would have been unnecessary.

1. As I specifically noted, considering the circumstances it would be hard to make a charge of theft stick. No such charge will be filed.

2. This is not a matter of disposing of some old, worn-out, never-to-be-read-again book by using it for kindling. The sort of book burning involved here represents a symbolic destruction of, an intent to destroy, the ideas involved, not just the physical object at hand, and to ostracize those who hold those ideas. It is not just a matter of competing "fundies" being pissed off at each other. Your failure to understand that is worse than unfortunate.

3. You imply that the "sides" are "Christian fundies" and "Muslim fundies." Hogwash. The actual sides are the book-burners and the non-book-burners. And on that you damn well should take a side - the latter one. If you perhance think I would feel differently about some Muslim who intended to publicly burn a Bible, you are completely daft.

4. You do not, you cannot, combat bigotry and the ignorance and fear from which it arises and which it in turn generates by ignoring it. That has never worked and it never will.

 
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