In between projects and working hours this weekend, I saw two stories which, as disparate as their central figures might be, reminded me that all the flowery, respectful speech in the world isn't going to hide the fact that the world can be and frequently is a volatile, frightening place.
To wit, this weekend, angry Muslims all over the world -- from Lebanon to Syria to Pakistan to Iraq -- protested the publishing of a cartoon depicting the muslim prophet Mohammad in Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper. Soon after the publishing, in September, 2005, other papers followed, including papers in Norway, Italy, France and Germany. The protests varied in scope and vitriol, but the more extreme thereof included chants calling for the executions of the editors who green-lighted publishing the cartoon, the burning of the Danish and Norwegian consolates in many cities, the expulsion of Danish and Norwegian diplomats, and cessation of relations with these two nations.
Once the smoke -- literally -- clears, it is likely this all will blow over. But still, seeing CNN.com's homepage run a story entitled "Consulate Set Afire Over Cartoon" is sad and disturbing.
Another story involving an 18-year-old who attacked patrons of a New Bedford, Massachusetts, gay bar ended with the individual fleeing to Arkansas, where he shot a state trooper during a routine traffice stop, and then making his way to Missouri, where he died in a hospital after being shot twice in the head by police during the subsequent pursuit.
Despite the obvious differences between these two pieces of news, what stuck me reading them is that no matter of diplomacy -- whether in the form of international relations or in political correctness -- can cure or prevent the spread of hate, whether it's in the name of religious fervor or hate and distrust of those who are different.
In the case of the muslim "uprising" regarding the publishing of the cartoon, it is against Islamic law to publish any visual depiction of Mohammad; that, apparently, was the rationale behind the world-wide demonstrations against the Danish and Norwegian actions. But I find the fact that a variety of other nations -- as mentioned above -- also published the same cartoon as a show of solidarity interesting. Apparently, the hate has not spread to other embassies, and the only flags being burned in the street remain the Dutch and Norwegian flags (in addition to American flags, presumably). What is most disturbing is that it seems that Islam -- and its most fervent followers -- is in the news regularly; and more often than not, the news is about unrest, unhappiness and calls for action against Western nations or interests. If I was in an Arab city, I would open a flag store: it seems that all they ever do there is make (and detonate) bombs and burn flags. I'm not quite ready to strap on a bomb-belt, so perhaps selling American and Dutch and Norwegian flags might be a worthwhile career option should my other gig(s) not work out.
As for Jacob Robida, the aforementioned 18-year-old who decided to attack the gay bar known as "Puzzles" in New Bedford, his brief life is, thankfully, over. According to the above-linked article, Mr. Robida, according to his neighbors, littered his room with swastikas and was "strange." No amount of prison, therapy or help would ever "cure" someone who had that degree of hate in his heart, and whether Mr. Robida had mental illness -- beyond what is, certainly, clear to the layman -- we shall never know. But if this was how he chose to express his innermost thoughts, and to end his own life, than it is unfortunate that in doing so he hurt anyone (several people in the bar as well as a woman who he had apparently taken hostage in his attempt to evade police).
Whether it's the anti-abortion Christian Coalition, advocates for Teri Schiavo, neo-nazis, or radical Muslims calling for the execution of a Danish newspaper editor, it amazes me that the people of this earth are still caught up in not only living their own lives as they wish, but saying or doing whatever it is they feel they have to do to insure everyone lives and conducts themselves and believes as they do. Someday, that may change, but it seems to me that the more things change, the more they, unfortunately, stay the same.