“I wanted the ideal animal to hunt,” explained the general. ” So I said, ‘What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?’
“And the answer was, of course, `It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason.'”
“But no animal can reason,” objected Rainsford.
“My dear fellow,” said the general, “there is one that can.”
“But you can’t mean–” gasped Rainsford.
“And why not?”
“I can’t believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke.”
“Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting.”
“Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder.”
– from the short story, The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell
Humanity loses when we set up people to be prey, targets for bigoted hunters who’s survival in no way depends on an ethnicity’s destruction, but who choose to bait and pursue, both barrels up, as a bloodsport. Whether you’re an “ugly” American, White Supremacist or committed Jihadist, your group-think notions of a life-and-death struggle for cultural survival are too often distilled into self-aggrandizing, self-righteous assertions of moral superiority.
“Our Judeo-Christian culture is far superior to the Islamic one,” Geert Wilders, the keynote speaker at the anti-Muslim cartoon contest that was attacked, Sunday, told the crowd in Garland, Texas, just before the shots rang out. “I can give you a million reasons. But here is an important one: We have humor and they don’t.” I guess no one ever explained to America’s indigenous peoples what jokers the European missionaries were. Cortez, particularly, was a barrel of laughs.
Pamela Geller, head of the hate group American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sponsored Sunday’s Texas event, told CNN Monday, that the shooting in Garland “illustrated” that there is “a problem in Islam.”
I think our Founding Fathers and Mothers would agree that while free expression is paramount, if one uses that right as bait to ensnare those who are tragically consumed by their religion, who are as zealous for their version of truth as you are to challenge it, even if it ends with them lying in a pool of their own blood, then you haven’t proven your point. You’ve proven theirs. You become the intolerant aggressors. They become the ones martyred for a cause.
Geller is careful not to dehumanize her enemy, in any obvious sort of way. Instead, she merely subhumanizes them with the antiquated terms of the Crusaders of old and the aforementioned colonialists. “I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages,” she said, in defense of her group’s actions in holding an event she knew would be offensive to Muslims.
It’s important to be clear, here, that while the actions of Geller’s group disgust me, they do have a right to give voice to their beliefs. The U.S. Constitution gives them that right. But my personal constitution does not. Their “contest” smells too much like the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda that targeted my recent ancestors. It is used as a justification for murder.
But violence of the sort perpetrated by individuals claiming to represent the so-called Islamic State, in response to the Garland event, is also never, ever right.
Injustice, intolerance, racism – these should all be hunted down and destroyed, but advocating for the destruction of human behavior does not mean advocating for the murder of those who practice it. It is the practice itself that must end. That was the staff at Charlie Hebdo’s point. Geller, et al, have abandoned the French cartoonists’ nuance for a cudgel.
Finally, and I can’t say this loud enough, making Pamela Geller the bogey in this is not the right approach. Just as hatred of Islamist militants only empowers them because it gives them an “us against the world” determination, so too Geller, Wilders and the other racists’ voices only get louder the closer we put our ears to them. We should send them back to the fringe from whence they came. If we’re lucky, we won’t hear from them again, except as high squeaks in a distant, fading echo.