Bring thousands of people together in a rally, and it gets ignored because it wasn't millions. But bring together 50 people to send a symbolic message by ceremoniously (or unceremoniously, as the case may be) burning the Quran (Koran, pick a spelling), and the administration and media hone in on it with laser-like focus.
This September 11th, the Dove World Outreach Center -- consisting of Pastor Terry Jones and a congregation of 49 others -- has announced their plan to protest radical Islam by burning the Koran (Quran. Whatever.) And even before the first match has been lit, the reaction has been incendiary. General David Petraeus has warned that the action could endanger our troops. David Axelrod is concerned about the security threat it could provoke. Eric Holder has called the plan "idiotic and dangerous." Hillary Clinton has called it "disrespectful" and "disgraceful." Even Angelina Jolie has weighed in with her regrets, so you know this has to be major news!
Let me be perfectly clear where I stand on this: I think burning books -- any book (or record, or film) -- is just plain stupid and creepy. It doesn't accomplish anything positive, and generally spreads the message contained in the book wider than before. If anything, radical muslims might want to consider thanking the Dove church a few years down the road for helping spread the message of Islam through their actions.
On the other hand, it is just a book. It is pages, pulped from trees, with ink splashed on it. And yes, that goes for the Holy Bible as well. They're published texts. They can (and will) make more. And as I must assume that the congregation of the Dove church went out and bought these Korans (as opposed to going door to door, taking them by force, and clearing the local library shelves in a mob frenzy), I'm sure the publisher's thank them for their contributions, and would gladly sell them twice as many should they wish their next Koran burning to be a larger event next time.
But could I burn a Koran? Sure, it's the sacrosanct text of some idiots who crash planes, set off bombs, and ambush our soldiers. But it's also the holy book of my friend Saidul, and Ramesch, and Saritha. It's the holy book of muslim soldiers serving in the American military. How could I burn a Koran with the caveat, "But it's just meant against those people, not you." That would be like organizing a Bible burning to protest the terrorist activities of the Westboro Baptist Church.
So it's stupid -- but it's also small and inconsequential. At least, it was, until this Gainesville gathering began to be addressed by our own government. Then it became notorious, dangerous, and a threat to national security. Not that I recall any organized Koran burnings prior to the collapse of the World Trade Center, or the crash outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, or the assault on the Pentagon. I don't think a Koran even got charred before the attack on the USS Cole.
And I'm not sure I've heard any of the aforementioned administration officials (and celebrity) speak out anytime in the past when someone's burned the US flag (except to remind everyone that it's an expression of free speech).
When the government puts all their attention -- or, rather, all our attention -- on something so undeserving of attention at all, I have to wonder: what should we be focused on? What are we being distracted from? Follow the agendas, keep your eyes on the real problems, and don't buy into the hype generated by a roomful of malcontents who, were it not for the government and the media, would have gone largely unnoticed.