Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Goddamned cartoons

As I type this, "Mad World" by Gary Jules (see Donny Darko soundtrack) is playing on my headphones...

Some of you may have noticed the addition of the ClustrMaps image on the sidebar, which is supposed to indicate where visitors to this site are coming from. So, to my visitors from throughout the US, Portugal, France, Germany, Argentina and India: welcome. Please feel free to leave a comment. (no, you do not need to be a blogger)

I had been considering writing a post with regards to this whole Danish-Islam-cartoon controversy, but to be honest the topic gives me a headache. It seems quite apparent to me that this particular news item, more than any other in memory, highlights the racial, political and religious differences between the peoples of the world and the reasons why we'll never have a Star Trekesque utopia. Too bad - I was kinda looking forward to the female ensigns in the short skirts. Rowr.

But in trying to escape the subject by visiting some of my favourite bookmarks, I came across my old writing instructor Denis McGrath's blog and, go figure, he wrote a very nice piece examining the black-and-white, headline-driven manner in which the media cover this type of story that runs much, much deeper.

You can read that post here.

As a writer, Denis has the ability to make succinct arguments using the written (typed?) word.

As for me, well, I suppose I'd just like to pass along the following opinions/observations on the whole cartoon controversy:

1. This is not a cartoon controversy. If you think the whole thing boils down to a picture, you're incredibly obtuse. This is about religion, respect and yes, politics.

2. People have a right to protest, burn flags and be incredibly pissed.

3. Calling for the death of heathens is, well, extreme, but if that's what you honestly believe your religion, your god, your faith would demand, then who am I to judge? Of course, I'm not going to let you kill me, but I'm gonna do my damnedest to respect your beliefs.

4. Religion is much much much more powerful than politics when dealing with people of faith. We're talking god, eternity, heaven and hell here. I'll George Bush over Satan anyday, much as that might seem as a toss-up at the moment.

5. Just because the West is more "liberal" and we might be more tolerant of cartoons, dark humour and momma jokes, doesn't mean we should expect the rest of the world to be that way. I grew up one way, you grew up another.

6. Don't assume the Islamic protesters speak for the whole or even a significant portion of the world's muslims - do you think Pat Robertson speaks for all/most Christians?

7. The newspapers that published the cartoons were absolutely, totalling wrong. Freedom of the press, my ass. Those papers would never have printed a cartoon depicting a jewish person as cheap or standing in a shower in Auschwitz hoping for hot water. Clearly, those papers were either inconsiderate of their muslim readers or simply ignorant of their existence. While many countries believe in freedom of the press, you'll find that many of these same countries have anti-hate literature laws. If someone is allowed to mock Muslims in such a blatant, Islam=Terrorism fashion, why not just give the KKK a national newspaper, printed in Harlem, and get it over with?

8. Newspapers in France are not the same as papers in Toronto: a muslim "joke" in France is much more likely to be a racial slur than here, not that we would print that sort of thing here anyways.

9. The fact that the news today reports that Flemming Rose, the Danish editor of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten is willing to publish anti-jewish cartoons is proof positive that the man, has in fact, lost control and his mind, and should add his job to the list. Two wrongs do not make a right. First off, you are implying that Muslims hate Jews and that slamming the latter will make the former happy. While this may be true for some muslims, again, you're painting a people with a broad brush and just pissing off more people in the process. Fess up to having made a poor judgement call in your paper and on international television, resign your position and don't turn the ignition in your car ever again.

10. Please do not confuse Church with religion with faith with truth. Personally, I am a non-practicing Catholic who believes the "capital-C" Church is insane. No flesh-and-blood man (pointy hat or not) can tell me what my God does and does not want of me. That is, if I believed in a god, which I'm not sure I do, but that's a story for another day. On the other hand, if you have a strong faith, I'll respect that. I may think it's erroneous or flawed, but I'm not about to run around printing thousand of newspapers for distribution to millions of people telling the world your religion of choice (and hopefully it is of choice, and not simply your religion of birth) is nuts.

Like Denis says, the press has been having a field day with this, making it seem much more extreme and fanning the flames (hey it sells papers...). This isn't a story about a cartoon and it certainly isn't cut and dried. There are tons of shades of grey which are lost in the headlines being splashed around. Keeping an open mind is the first step in seeing them.

Like the lady said, folks: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
~Seneca the Younger

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