So now Reverend Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, in his desire to prove himself as an exemplar of Christ's love, has burned a copy of the Quran. Muslim mobs are, as I am writing this, rioting in Afghanistan and probably elsewhere. A UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif has been stormed, and rioters killed several UN workers from Sweden and Nepal.
Jones states that he is "devastated" by this, but "is not responsible for what happened."
Responsibility is an interesting subject, isn't it? Jones' claim reminds me of the day a fight broke out in class during my first year as a teacher. It turned out that a young man who was a known bully (well, known to the students -- I didn't realize it until that day) had been surreptitiously poking a classmate. The classmate was a disturbed young man with issues known to everyone (students and staff alike) regarding self-control, anger, and volatility. Without warning, the bully found himself tackled, pinned to the floor, and nearly had his eyes clawed out before I could pull the two apart.
The bully's defense? "All I did was poke him."
Please note that I am not defending the Muslim rioters; I have, on several occasions, taken serious issue with Muslim apologists calling Islam "a religion of peace," given that any time anything bad happens, Muslim mobs seem to go on the rampage and blow things up. So, let's take it as a given that the Muslim rioters bear a great deal of the responsibility.
To what extent should Reverend Jones share in the blame for what happened?
Well, let's see. "Blame" usually is doled out when you knew something bad was going to happen, and went ahead and did it anyway. Did he know that the Muslims consider burning the Quran a vile act? Yup. Did he know that if he burned the Quran, riots were likely, and people were probably going to be hurt or killed? Yup. Had he been warned not to do it? Yup. Did he go ahead and do it anyway? Yup.
Yet he still says he is "not responsible."
Interestingly, the only person in the church who has come out with an uneasy defense is Jones' son, Luke Jones. "We've not studied the Quran, but we still have an opinion," the younger Jones stated to reporters. "We're actually not educated. We're common people."
So, let me get this straight: "We're a bunch of nitwits" is an excuse? And if you don't know what you're talking about, what the hell makes you think you're entitled to have an opinion?
Okay, that looks clear enough. Jones' claim not to bear any responsibility is unadulterated horse waste, and it'd be nice if someone with some clout would make that clear to him. Not that it would be likely to make any difference; zealots never change their minds about anything. That's what being a zealot means. And, apparently, being a zealot also means never having to say you're sorry.
That's the easy one. How about some blame for President Hamid Karzai, who publicly announced what Jones had done, in order to express his "outrage" at the desecration? Without that statement, 99% of Afghans would never have known what had happened, and the Nepalis and Swedes would likely still be alive today. By the same litmus test as Reverend Jones, Karzai is also guilty.
How about the American press, who reported on what Jones had done? Same thing. It's all well and good to say "I'm just reporting on what happened." How about some consideration of the results? It would have been a fitting response to Jones and his congregation of mindless ideologues if the response from the press had been total silence. I'm all for freedom of information, but there are times when the person in question doesn't deserve one more word of coverage. (Charlie Sheen come to mind? Yeah, for me, too.) We have created a press that looks for sensationalism by our very appetite for it.
But second to the rioters, Jones himself deserves the most blame, not to mention a nice, solid kick in the ass, not that anyone's likely to give it to him. He can claim all he wants that his little publicity stunt of burning a Quran was a blow against Satan, and that he bears no responsibility for what followed. But in reality, his claim is no more reasonable than that of a man who gets mauled after poking a bear with a sharp stick, and says, "Wow. I had no idea that was going to happen."