Burning bridges

Ignorance and fear is a volatile combination. Florida pastor Terry Jones embodies the truth of that statement, as his fear of a religion he clearly does not understand led him to propose a Quran burning to commemorate the Sept. 11 tragedies. The holy book burning would have been just another tragedy added to the already infamous day. It would have marked a descent into depraved, selfish, ignorant behavior that could have been irreversible on the world stage. The mere threat of such a despicable act may have caused harm to precarious international relations.  When you’re balancing on a knife’s edge, any jolt can lead to freefall. Yes, Terry Jones is supported by the First Amendment and has the right to burn any books he feels like without breaking any laws. But his denouncement of a religion through gruesome spectacle and combustion would have broken the implicit, unwritten rules of tolerance and humanity.   Actions like the one proposed by Jones recall images of cross burnings commonly used by the Ku Klux Klan in their terrorization of African Americans and other minorities — actions meant to make the victims feel unwanted and threatened.   For many Muslim Americans, the Quran dictates a way of life.  It is a spiritual guide as well as a set of rules for being a better person. If Jones took the time to read the book instead of dreaming up ways to destroy it, he may find more parallels between the values he holds dear and Muslim values than he would care to admit. The scar of Sept. 11 is deep and cuts across all elements of American society. The attacks rocked our sense of security and safety and opened our eyes to the destructive violence that can emerge from a deep-seated hatred and from a radical religious group.   What is Terry Jones if not a radical religious figure with a deep-seated hatred? How do his proposed actions make him any better, in an ideological sense, than the people who brought down the World Trade Center or attacked the Pentagon? They do not. Thankfully, when the pastor’s plans became common knowledge he was hit with an outpour of anger and his plans were almost universally denounced, causing him to cancel the Quran burnings.   I’m proud that the rest of America was rational enough to realize a terrible idea when they saw one, rather than giving into misplaced anger and following Jones blindly. From the far right to the liberal left, Americans across the country have shown that they are ready to move forward by condemning Jones’ actions.