We're coming onto the eve of the Jewish New Year. Jews are an ancient people with an elephant like memory. Sadly much of what we remember is not pretty. When book burning raises its ugly head, as it has in the last days, we don't have to dig deep into that memory bank. Adolf Hitler burned books. Book burners are always a company of hooligans, — sometimes ruling hooligans. They are small-minded people who in the end seem more afraid of ideas than anything else, especially the ideas of others.
I’m happy that General Petraeus has spoken out. His concern about the safety of our troops is legitimate. But threatening to burn the Quran isn’t the only thing going on. Not only is the Islamic Center in New York being challenged, similar centers and houses of worship are under attack across the country. Forget the affront to religious liberty, the freedom we beat our patriotic breasts about. One has to really wonder what these people, many of whom mouth concern for national security, are thinking. A growing number of Muslims around the world are convinced that America is at war not with terrorists as it claims but with Islam. With the blatant bigotry now being displayed in many parts of the country, why shouldn’t they come to that conclusion? In a time of Tea Parties and generally in an economic climate that provokes genuine frustration and understandable anger, these acts are not merely wrong they have the potential of being literally explosive.
General Petraeus has spoken out. Bravo, but where are the voices of America’s religious leaders? On October 25, 1962, Ambassador Adlai Stevenson asked his Soviet counterpart Valerian Zorin if he denied that the Russians had placed missiles in Cuba. When Zorin put him off saying his answer would come in due course, Stevenson famously retorted, I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over. Would that I had his patience.
All I know is that Lady Liberty is shedding tears again and many of those who should know better, whom we expect to know better, aren’t there to give her, and us, comfort. Shame on them.
Addendum Shortly after this post, a significant number of religious leaders including from Protestant, Catholics and Jewish groups, presented a very forceful denunciation of attacks on Islam in the country. Their statement, and more importantly promised follow-up, is encouraging. Equally strong words from the still silent people like Rick Warren would be welcome.