Sunday, February 05, 2006

the last thing i'll say about it

Here's the cartoon controversy from a cartoonist's point of view.

I don't know why this brouhaha has gotten under my skin the way it has. I haven't really been able to think deeply on any other topic for days. (While, it should be said, the major news outlets seemed to be simply hoping the story would go away, a strategy destined to last only until the story became really ugly and unavoidable.) Comments here, I've noticed, have been few, meaning that maybe I'm alone in my fixation.

But, man! So many absorbing questions. If momentum carries all this saber-rattling much farther, aren't you scared it's going to be the new bomb under the carriage? Or do you assume it'll flame out? How much freedom of the press is too much freedom of the press? Is it too much to expect, in a globalized but not equalized world, that everyone can fully appreciate each others' values (religious conviction in one case, secular liberty in the other)? What role does the UN play? Where should America be in this equation? It's been pretty silent so far, aside from a stultifying and mealy-mouthed state department press release.

Surely, surely you have an opinion.


Adam said...

Well, I do have an opinion, of course. But my own opinion kind of offends me, so I've been quiet about it. Iran's reaction seems appropriate - recalling the ambassador and reviewing oil exports with the hopes that the Danish papers or government will apologize for publishing a cartoon that could be read as Islam-baiting. But for anyone - or any mass, as the case is - to call for the murder of innocents over a cartoon that is published in the papers, it's indecent! I cannot imagine a cartoon or an article or anything that would provoke me to wish death on the offending society. The voices of reason and tolerance, of righteous indignation, which we're starting to hear from decent Muslims from around the world, need to get louder - I know you're out there, make yourselves heard!

Nate said...

Oh, I had plenty more to say on the subject, in response to your response on the last post (after thoughtfully absorbing your points of course). But I've found these things can go on forever. Best to sketch out a general outline of your case and back off. Otherwise everyone goes round and round endlessly tweaking their argument, until it's all caveats buried beneath disclaimers nestled within qualifiers.

And I don't want to freak you out or anything. And I have a job.

But your right about the fixating on the questions. I could talk about this for hours.

My own quick tweaking and qualifying, just for today: When you ask "who are we to judge?" and all that? This is a valid criticism that the right often makes of liberalism, what they perceive as "touchy feely liberalism": an assumption that this particular two way street of tolerance is symmetrical, when it is definitely assymmetrical.

And don't get me started on sacrosanctity, which may be a word I just made up, but making up words willy nilly seems appropriate to describe something that is used to excuse arbitrary violence. The fewer things sacrosanct the better.

Nate said...

"Your right?" "Your right?"

What am I, eight?

yet again, nate said...

So...uh...I go back to computer-y type work stuff...and the line “and I have a job” echoes through my head. So I come racing back. I don’t know what your current job situation is, but that was not some underhanded insult! Really, it was just about my own guilt about fixating on Muslim/secular tensions on somebody else’s dime.

ester said...

ha - nate - don't worry about it. i didn't even take the "job" thing that way, although now that you point it out, maybe i *will* get insulted! because that's my sovreign right as an american.

i feel your pain about "who am i to judge?" i had posted in a different forum somewhat critically about the firing of guns in the air, and someone retorted, "that's their culture - you are you to judge?" and indeed, leftist guilt overcame me.

leftist guilt can be useful. i think it encourages you to question your assumptions and impulses. sociological soul-searching: and at the end of mine, i decided, you know what? firing guns ANYWHERE is wrong. to me. the end.

lil adam, i love your opinion. i think it's very wise.

Adam said...

Thanks, Ester. There're few things more offensive than tagging terrorism and trigger-happiness to the culture that gave us algebra, geometry, urban gardens, and imperial-scale religious tolerance. My respect for Islam and Muslims runs far too deep for that kind of claim. Sometimes, kneejerk liberalism smacks of willful misunderstanding, doesn't it?

Nate said...

I know you want to post more about this, bbblbk. I know you do.
But you are feeling constrained by your unfortunate promise to keep the last post the final word. I can feel the very tension on the static Babblebook page. The cyber-air virtually crackles with it.

Holocaust cartoons in Iran? Protesters attacking an AMERICAN base, whose media largely refrained from publishing the offending cartoon in the first place? Who tolerates who? Eh? Eh?

Go ahead. I won't tell.

ester said...

don't worry, nate, i'm crafty: i'll SNEAK in a reference to this mess! you'll have to look very very carefully to find it ...

Rebecca said...

aside from the usual bafflement-paralysis (exacerbated by recent middle east experience, of course), i'm desirous of picking-apart this one: is it the representation of the prophet, or his representation with a symbol of violence? the other drawings in the set are more interesting, i think... but are they as offensive?

i agree with you, adam, about the condemnability of the actions taken. but there's another question: where is the place in the modern (Western) world for the honor codes of Arab society, and who's to blame for the furied discontents of the rioters? i tend to think (and maybe this is condescending) that the raging mobs aren't necessarily SO devout but rather clinging to a particular angle of their pride.

plus, we're only starting to hear that maybe, just maybe, extremists are pulling strings; the new involvement of USA-related targets shows that to some degree this is a perverted case of bait and switch: danes, representing The West, baits; they switch to a more telegenically obvious target, the usual Western enemy, the US.

this thought inspired (or something) by a conversation with a Palestinian guy about the need to prevent non-Muslims from entering mosques; he really couldn't say why, but was sure that it was really important.

this kind of passionate psychological fetishization isn't, of course, the sole province of fundy muslims. the threats of 'anne frank in bed with hitler' are designed to show the West where its festering sore point (still) is.

me personally: don't care about the hitler/frank concept nearly as much as i do about, say, the continuing casual sexual violence in media (for example). than again, i'm known to be offensively uninterested in symbols.

ester said...

reb - hitler may be a symbol but i don't think anne frank has the same status. she's still a person. i'm not saying i'm actually upset or offended (or surprised) but poor anne! why does she have to be sacrified to the mobs? what did she do?

frankly i think it makes those cartoonists look silly, picking on anne. it certainly isn't going to help them retain / regain the high ground in this "you hurt my feelings!" fight.

to augment another of your points, i'd argue that pride and devotion (devoutness?) can be inseparable. religion, like race, is one of those last things a person with few freedoms or options can really get excited about.

Nate said...

Some questions, some rhetorical, some not so get to decide:
Is the reality of the Holocaust – the recent reality – even equivalent to religious symbology? But should we even care? The original cartoons were done in the spirit of satire, to score political points, even if those points were misguided. But in what spirit are the Holocaust cartoons? Spite? Will they have any redeeming content? Or will its only point be to offend. Will these Iranian cartoons make some sort of point about the Holocaust, where I will go, “Gee, I’ve never thought about the Holocaust in that way before. Good on ya, Iranian newspaper for pushing the ‘boundaries of free speech’ and making us see sacred things in a new light.”
Will this point really come from the Middle Eastern Muslim world, specifically those in the Muslim world that will take the time to participate in this contest?
What does Anne Frank in bed with Hitler have to do with anything? Was Frank somehow complicit in the Holocaust?
Maybe this is all pure adolescent pettiness? Maybe my teenage brother has thrown more mature shit fits?
It’s not about whether she’s sacred or not. Again, I think few things should be if you have a point to make. It’s just that here, there was none. You are right: It comes off as incredibly, stupidly silly.

jakalina said...

It reminds me of that movie, "Mars Attacks", when the whole country is at the mercy of ridiculous Martians. Then one young man goes to his grandmother's nursing home to rescue her and she is Playing the "Indian Lovesong". "I am calling yew, hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo. And when the martians hear this song they curl up and die. I think the cartoon is completely appropriate to the situation and the response of the Moslem world to the cartoon is an affirmation of its validity