Burning the First Amendment

by EDWARD CLINE September 16, 2010
In the classic western, High Noon, Will Kane, the retiring U.S. Marshall of Hadleyville, must face a gang of criminals who have come back to town, intent on vengeance on Kane for his having helped send the leader to prison. Most of the townspeople, in a demonstration of mass cowardice (a “terror-stricken town,” as the trailer narrative goes), repair to a church after they have abandoned Kane, citing a host of rationalistic excuses. There they pray and squeeze their eyes shut in desperate hope that it is only Kane the gang will kill, and won’t run amok in the town itself. But they would much, much prefer him to leave to save themselves the bother of having any moral backbone.

A deputy refuses to help out of personal jealousy, and resigns. A former mistress packs up and leaves. Even Kane’s new wife, a pacifist Quaker, boards the train out of town, the same train that brings Frank Miller, the gang leader, into it. A young boy is the only person who volunteers to help Kane fight the gang.

The townspeople beg Kane to leave, more to protect their own hides than out of concern for his life. But for Kane, flight is not an option. He chooses to stay and face the gang because he knows they will eventually find him, wherever he goes.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, is not of the same mettle as Will Kane. Nor is Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Nor is President Barack Obama, Nor is General David Petraeus. After promising to burn copies of the Koran in protest against the erection of the Ground Zero mosque (aka “community center”) and against terrorism, Jones decided to not burn the Korans because he was warned that doing so might lead to Muslim rioting abroad and cause death and destruction.

Pastor Jones had a fundamental right to burn his Korans. They were his private property, or his church‘s. It was his or the church’s money. His gesture was loony, not “counter-productive” as some pundits have claimed, but rather a futile protest against the Ground Zero mosque and Islamic terrorism. It may have even been a bid for publicity, which he certainly garnered.
 
 
What about burning Bibles, or copies of Mein Kampf, or Das Kapital, or even Atlas Shrugged, or the Harry Patter novels? The same principle applies. Freedom of speech is inherently linked to private property. If property is regulated, controlled, or abolished, then, by extension, so is speech. This is what Obama, Cass Sunstein, and the FCC are creeping up to in wanting to regulate the Internet through “net neutrality.”

However, the author of a Pajamas Media article on the Koran-burning and Justice Breyer‘s comments about it on “Good Morning, America,”, does point to but does not raise a very relevant issue, which is the fear factor. Brow-beating or threatening Terry Jones (as is likely what happened) into canceling his over-publicized plan to burn some Korans -- because burning them might provoke Muslims to riot and kill and run amok is (as they promised to do, and asthey did), and possibly endanger our troops in Afghanistan and Americans in general -- is, on the face of it, an act of submission to Islam.

President Barack Obama, technically, as commander-in-chief and representative of the American value of freedom of speech, should have filled Will Kane’s shoes and defended Jones’s right to burn the Korans. He should have taken a stand against the hue-and-cry of the press and Muslims and defended Jones’ proposed action. But, in conformance with his “Muslim outreach” policy, he defended Muslim anger and not Jones.
 
"This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda," Obama said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" program. "You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities."

"I just hope he understands that what he is proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance," Obama said. "He says he's someone who is motivated by his faith ... I hope he listens to those better angels and understands that this is a destructive act that he's engaging in," Obama said.

Well, those “better angels” came down on Jones like a ton of bricks. General lDavid Petraeus also wielded his cosh on Jones.
 
General David Petraeus said the planned torching of Islam's holy book by a Florida church would be a propaganda coupe for the Taliban in Afghanistan and stoke anti-US sentiment across the Muslim world.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," said Petraeus of the plan. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community," the general said in an emailed statement.

Why should anyone care that the burning would have been a “propaganda coup” for the Taliban or any other Islamic gang? And note that Petraeus said that we are “engaged with the Islamic community” -- not at war with it. What is it that American lives and treasure have been spent on for the last nine years in Iraq and Afghanistan? Building “community centers”? And if so, aren’t the troops in harm’s way, with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and other Islamic gangs -- all those “community leaders” -- shooting at them already?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Jones to talk him out of the Koran-burning.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sept. 9 phoned a Florida pastor planning to burn Korans and warned him that he was putting the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk, the Pentagon said. Speaking to the pastor, Gates "expressed his grave concern that going forward with this Koran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and urged him not to proceed with it," press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

It is almost as though Obama, Petraeus, and Gates had watched High Noon and decided to adopt the cowardly pragmatism of not fighting the Miller-Muslim gang. “You’ll only upset them and make them angrier than they already are. You’ll just stoke the fires of hatred.”

I have news for Gates: The hatred was always there, and the haters have never lacked an excuse to run amok. Imam Feisal Rauf also warned on the “Larry King Show” of a Muslim retaliation.
 
But, capping a day-long rhetorical offensive that began Wednesday morning with an opinion piece in The New York Times, Rauf said he intends to go ahead with the "multifaith" center near the site where Islamic terrorists killed nearly 2,800 people because not doing so would unleash fury abroad.

"There is a certain anger here [in America], no doubt," he said later in the interview. "But if we don't do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world. If we don't do things correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis [over images depicting the Prophet Mohammed], which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world. And we have a much bigger footprint in the Muslim world."

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans," Rauf said in a statement read to ABC News' Christiane Amanpour.

Some “anger” is more equal than others. American anger over the Ground Zero mosque should be restrained and stifled, if not outright prohibited. Muslim “anger,” however, is wholly justified and could “explode.” How? Like car bombs? Shoe bombs? IED’s? Fire-bombings? Homicidal rioting? Well, this is all out of the hands of the self-styled “bridge builder” and yearner for “peace and harmony.”

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning, America.” Breyer, a liberal, hedged on the question of whether or not Terry Jones had a right to burn the Korans.
 
Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me…that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran burning. “Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout 'fire' in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

For Breyer, that right is not a foregone conclusion. “It will be answered over time in a series of cases which force people to think carefully. That’s the virtue of cases,” Breyer told me. “And not just cases. Cases produce briefs, briefs produce thought. Arguments are made. The judges sit back and think. And most importantly, when they decide, they have to write an opinion, and that opinion has to be based on reason. It isn’t a fake.”

Maybe, said the judge and mayor and townsfolk in the Hadleyville church to Will Kane, just maybe you’re wrong. Maybe Frank Miller has a right to be angry with you. Maybe you hurt his feelings. You know that better than any of us. He’s a bad man, but must have his good points, we don’t know. Maybe he has a right to shoot you. We’re not saying he should. We don’t know. But, Will, you’ve got to look at this on a case by case issue. And it would be best if you just skedaddled, and saved us a lot of worry and grief. Who knows? Maybe we have a right to just hogtie you now and hand you over to Frank Miller ourselves (hah, hah) and save everyone a lot of trouble!

If one refrains from taking an action because the action may incur the wrath of Allah’s followers or of Wontonka or Attila the Hun or the thug down the street, who is the winner? Imam Feisal Rauf, for example, has claimed that not allowing him to build his alleged “community center” near Ground Zero will be taken as an assault on Islam and provoke riots and vengeance and so on. But then none of these parties has a clue about the link between private property and freedom of speech, except, perhaps Obama, spiritual grandson of Saul Alinsky, enemy of private property and freedom of speech. Obama, Petraeus, Jones, and Breyer have all submitted to Islam.

This is how Sharia law is insinuating itself into political thought. We do not demand that Islam and Muslims defer to secular law and individual rights; we should concede that we should defer to Muslims and Islam, because it's a "religious freedom" issue, because if we don't, Muslims will be angry and begin flying planes into buildings again, and stabbing people to death, or shooting Americans at random, and causing all kinds of unpleasantness, when we really all we want is to get along with them and not be so judgmental, because that’s such a bother.

None of these “moral leaders” had the courage and sense of consequence that Will Kane had. Collectively, they have told the Frank Miller gang (or Feisal Rauf) they can have the town.

Most other Americans, however, have demonstrated through the Tea Parties and their opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, that they still have the moral certitude of Will Kane. It is they who are telling looting politicians and dissimulating Islamic leaders to get out of town.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of a number of novels, and his essays, books, reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in a number of high-profile periodicals.
 

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