I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Koran Burning & Ground Zero Mosque Revisited

So, there's apparently some preacher somewhere in the South who plans to have a Koran burning ceremony on September 11. (I could google his actual name and location, but these details seem unimportant to the point I'm about to make.) His plans have drawn the condemnation of a lot of people, including General Petraeus, who argue that this is going to be offensive to Muslims and unhelpful to America's image abroad.

Well, duh.

I argued that conservatives were wrong to protest the building of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. To me, the prevailing rights were that people should be free to do what they wish with property they own, as long as they comply with reasonable zoning regulations, which seems to be the case. The argument that the mosque might stir bad memories or hurt feelings didn't particularly sway me. To me, protecting rights is a higher value than protecting feelings.

And, the same is true of this Koran burning. This is America: If you are free to burn a flag, you should be free to burn a book. Now, rest assured, I will think less of you for burning the book (or the flag), and so will a lot of other people. But, so what? If you can take the heat, light the fire. (With, of course, due regard to public safety; presumably a fire extiguisher will be on hand.) People who support the mosque in the name of free speech and religious liberty have no leg to stand on in opposing this action.

Every human activity is going to offend someone. Islamists may find it offensive to burn a Koran, or draw a cartoon of Mohammad, but certain Islamists also will find offense in my walking through a park holding the hand of my girlfriend. (Or, in my girlfriend driving us to the park. Or my girlfriend being able to read the signs along the way.) Curtailing American freedoms in the name of sparing the feelings of a few people overseas, or even hundreds of millions of people, isn't a trade worth making. But, I also hope that the Americans who agree with this particular argument will also see that the same logic applies to the mosque builders of Manhattan. The fact that millions will take offense is no reason not to say what you wish to say and do what you wish to do in a free society. I wouldn't have it any other way.


PT and Lalitha said...

All freedom should be exercised with restraint and good sense. How would you like it if an American Muslim Group, or several American Muslim Groups, decide to have Bible burning events on the same day?

PT Cherian.

Loren Eaton said...

You're right, James, this pastor should have the right to be able to do this. But that doesn't mean he isn't an absolute idiot.

James Maxey said...

PT and Lalitha, if every Muslim in the world were to burn a Bible on the same day, resulting in the destruction of millions and millions of Bibles, I would react with such stunning indifference that the earth itself would tremble! The force of my yawn would strip the leaves from the very trees around me. Book burning is such a toothless, impotent action. In this day and age, what, exactly, is being accomplished? If you burned a billion Bibles, would the King James version be less available to a single reader? It's archived on a zillion computer databases; anyone with a printer could crank out as many copies as they want.

Suppose you were upset by my position and ran out and bought a thousand copies of Bitterwood to set on fire in protest. This action would hurt me how, exactly? My publisher would probably send you a thank you note, both for the purchase of the thousand copies, and for the resulting publicity. Then, we'd print another 10,000 copies to supply those curious as to why someone had bothered to burn a thousand copies. My ebook sales would soar, at the very least!

Seriously, I remember during the 80s a lot of preachers held burnings for rock music they considered Satanic. I recall Pink Floyd's "The Wall" being high on the list of burned records. Can anyone show me any evidence that this resulted in one less person hearing this album? Has there ever possibly been a less counterproductive form of protest in a free society?

Darkond said...

How much would 1,000 copies of Bitterwood cost? What's he percentage of discount for buying that many in bulk?
This is quite an idea for lesser-known authors around the world. Popularity derived by book-burning! One negative makes two positives!

James Maxey said...

I know the wholesale price for the book is roughly half cover price. So, probably about 4 grand. It would be a pretty expensive publicity stunt!

Darkond said...

Wow! That's cheaper than my old Powerbook!

Mr. Cavin said...

Well, this argument really misses the point entirely. Okay--I take that back. I'm sure that there are people out there who do think this is the point--this act--but I am surprised to see you engaging them here. Those people don't understand the situation at all.

Nobody really gives a crap if someone burns a pile of paper. Not even the right reverend what's-his-face, this guy who's been threatening US Korans, cares. There's nothing dangerous about that to anybody.

What's dangerous here is how fifty-odd nitwits in Florida were able to hijack all of the United States and world media and press it into the service of their lunatic message. What is dangerous here is that this message itself was a message of hate and we all happily passed it right along--even while we condemned it--to the people these morons wanted to most offend.

I'm not sure anyone is questioning anybody's right to burn their own private property (fire codes permitting); but ultimately it doesn't matter whether anything was burnt or not. The Muslim world still got the message: another slap in the face from a rich western country whose intentions they are growing less and less willing to trust.

I do care about freedoms, and I also know that cranks will be cranks. The end is nigh! Right now there are probably way more than just fifty people shouting at garbage and shadows on the New York subway. Cool. We walk on by. But we all had the freedom to ignore the hell out of this particular pocket of cranks in Florida too, and we did not. We broadcast the shouting of these crazies all over the whole damned world.

James Maxey said...

Thanks for your two cents, Cavin. It is curious how the media will suddenly zero in on a story. The reality is, there have been several Koran burnings, including one here in Raleigh, that generate at best a small local story but mostly pass unmentioned. Why this one blew up to the level of presidential intervention is mystifying.

As for the Muslim world feeling slapped, well, I don't know what to say. Part of being a responsible memboer of society is not going out of your way to offend other people. By this test, the florida preacher failed miserably. But, another part of being a responsible member of society is to know when to shrug off slights that have done you no true harm. By this standard, plenty of Muslims fail to be trustworthy members of the world community.

But, only some. Here in the US, there were a lot of reports about scattered riots in the "Muslim World" in response to the Koran burning (or rumors thereof). But, the news that wasn't reported was that roughly a billion other muslims didn't take to the street to burn Bibles, flags, and effigies of President Obama. Also not reported was that roughly 299,900 Americans, even those who are anti-muslim bigots, didn't burn a Koran on 9-11. In the outward indifference of the masses, there is hope.