Who's Fault is It?

05-17-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I’ve seen this scenario too many times unfortunately: Dad’s a heavy drinker and Mom and the kids know that when Dad comes home from work or wakes up on Saturday or Sunday there better be beer in the refrigerator or else there will be hell to pay. Mom is dutiful in making sure the refrigerator is well stocked at all times. Except one day the kids are sick and Mom has been running around to doctors and pharmacies and forgets to restock the beer. Dad goes to get a beer and doesn’t find any and proceeds to beat the hell out of his wife. Now some of Mom’s friends and family will tell her that she brought that beating on herself. After all she knew what would happen and should have been more responsible. She is even called a dumb, insensitive b#$!% who provoked Dad.

This is classic blame the victim rationale. It is exactly what I have been hearing regards the latest incident in Garland Texas. The organizers of the “Draw Mohammed Cartoon” Contest have been blamed for the violence that took place. They have been told that they “brought it on themselves”, “they only have themselves to blame”, “they knew what would happen and should have been more responsible”. And the main organizer has been referred to as a “dumb, insensitive b#$!% who provoked the terrorists. Blame the victim.

There is really no difference in the logic displayed in the two scenarios: the way to handle potential violence is to cower to the demands of the abuser. The same crowd who is blaming the victim seems to have no trouble supporting the publication of political satire aimed at things sacred to Jew and Christians. Their logic here is that Jews and Christians won’t react violently. So the only reason they would protest satire directed at Muslims is out of fear. That is called caving into the bully. Like blaming the victim, catering to the bully does not create peace in relationships.

But let’s look at the behavior of the victims. In the first scenario, Mom, by keeping the refrigerator stocked with beer for Dad is enabling a bad situation to get worse. The solution is for Dad to take responsibility for his drinking habits. If Dad refuses and continues to erupt in violence then Mom needs to find a new address. Maybe then Dad will accept the fact that Mom is serious about changing the situation.

In the second case if cartoonists and satirists cease depicting things Islamic the terrorists will still hold the threat of violence over their head. If the satirist backs down and no longer exercises the well-honored tradition of satire then the terrorist is enabled to continue his terroristic behavior. The terrorist will only continue in his pursuit of silencing all speech he finds objectionable. What has to happen is that the terrorist has to be disarmed and live within the bounds of a free society that includes free speech. If the satirists and cartoonists simply continue to create satire and refuse to back down maybe like Dad above the terrorist abuser will get the message that we take free speech very seriously.

In the past I have seen cartoons and satire that mock the Church, the Pope, the Virgin Mary in disgusting ways that cross the line beyond poor taste to vulgarity. Yet while it saddens me and angers me it does not move me to violence. It inspires me to defend the dignity of our sacred things, appeal to reason or use the tools of capitalism and participate in a boycott to send a message or maybe find legal remedies if it crosses the line into calumny or libel.

What I keep hearing is that if we just stop criticizing radical Islam then the violence will stop and peace will ensue. Peace however will not ensue if one side capitulates to the other by surrendering its deeply held values. Peace happens when each side respects the dignity and cherished beliefs of the other.

It looks like, though, that many in our society want to be more like the friends of Mom and insist that the rest of us know our place, be more responsible and keep the refrigerator well stocked and spend the rest of our lives walking on egg shells and do our best not to “bring violence on ourselves”.

Love, Fr. John B.

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