It is inconceivable to me that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey would call the obscure and offensive “pastor” Terry Jones about the anti-Muslim film that has incited some in the Middle East to murder. Like General Dempsey, I think the film is stupid and particularly misguided insofar as it may incite violence against our troops fighting in Afghanistan. Like General Dempsey, I wish Terry Jones would knock it off.
But — speaking of the “teachable moments” so beloved by the President — we have the opportunity to remind our “friends” overseas that, here in the United States, we have something called the First Amendment. It protects even disgraceful and offensive speech. Those in Egypt, Libya or elsewhere who are outraged by Jones’ film have the sympathy of the millions of American Christians who are routinely offended by “art” like the infamous “Piss Christ” (and at least their government isn’t subsidizing the “art” that offends their religious sensibilities the way ours often does).
Under our Constitution — our way of life — we simply don’t have government functionaries calling private citizens, especially offensive nuts like Jones (who may now be perceived to possess a quasi-official status at odds wtih reality), with the aim of telling them to stop offending a particular religious group. Whose standards are going to guide us: Ours or the Islamists?
What’s more, making the call today sends a message of weakness and semi-apology — as if we buy into the radicals’ argument that the film caused the deaths of our diplomats. Talk about sending a message of complete and utter spinelessness and implicit justification of the hideous acts that have been committed.