Try This -- Pastor Terry Jones as Scapegoat

Figuratively speaking, Terry Jones was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

He was an easy target. He was quickly portrayed as some sort of rube, a lunatic Christian who wanders in the briar patch between name-brand churches and mushroom worshipers. He's not, they'll have us believe, one of us. He deserves our derision and our jokes because he has been sufficiently dehumanized.

Maybe he is all that, but I'm skeptical. He doesn't seem any more of a religious nut than all those wild-eyed fanatics who have roamed America in the grips of fevered pietty from the beginning, many of them wrapped in respectability. He certainly doesn't appear any more riled up by Muslims than the legions who have sworn their own kinds of vengeance on Islam since 9/11, their passions continually inflamed by media prodding.

I don't share that hatred, so far as I can tell, and have no sympathy with burning Qurans or Upanishads or Torahs or the Book of Morman, though, like flag burning, I think we agreed to allow such distasteful things when we adopted the Constitution.

What galls me is the insinuation that if Jones had touched a match to Islam's sacred book he would have unleashed huge stores of anti-American reaction and sent scores of recruits into the ranks of suicide bombers with the result that our troops would suffer.

That seems to me a preposterous claim to lay at the feet of Terry Jones. However much an act of desecration of the Quoran might incense Muslims around the world, I don't see how it could add more wrath to that which has existed for the past decade as U.S. and allied forces have killed tens of thousands of their co-religionists in the course of invading their territory.

Do we really think that a single act of disrespect by an obscure Florida pastor could possible add significantly to a record of military assault and the loss of their family, friends and neighbors? Sometimes their whole villages?

I'm inclined to think the effect of that one symbolic attack on the Muslim holy book, whatever the immediate shock, would be minimal (the condemnation of the anticipated burning by so meny leading American religious leader would have reduced its impact I think -- Muslims are alert to such things). The roar of anti-American hostility has been building for many years, incited by dishonorable motives and hatreds on the part of the invaders. In this picture, the causes and solutions to 9/11 have long since been buried under other agenda.

General Petraeus, in effect, said that if things were to take a bad turn in Afghanistan it would be Terry Jones's fault. I guess we're to imagine that Jones would have upset the calm and roused antagonisms where they were well under control.

To me that's scapegoating, placing the misdeeds of a national war effort on the back of a dazed pastor, a man who emerged like a portion of magma from our national discontent, no more off-based, perhaps, than our twisted crusade.

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