Fighting Hate with Hate

Burnings in the News: Quran and Confederate Flag Edition

I rotated the Unitarian Universalist Association's "Standing on the Side of Love" banner to the bottom to headline the approaching "Burn a Confederate Flag Day". The idea was launched by Jesus' General, an anonymous gonzo blogger specializing in ridiculing right wing hate. The event's Facebook page describes his motivation: "Burn the Confederate Flag Day is a protest against the right's exploitation of racial prejudice for political gain. We urge you to burn the Confederate flag, a long-time symbol of racial hatred, on Sept 12, the date when the racially-divisive Tea Party holds its annual hate fest."

I don't know who publicized their idea first, but an obvious parallel event to BCFD is Pastor Terry Jones' plan to burn Qurans on September 11. While the Confederate flag burning hasn't attracted any lamestream media attention,1 the intertubes are burning up over the coming Quran immolation. General David Petraeus stepped into the breach recently:

"[Burning Qurans] could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."

Engaged, eh? Exhibit A, B, C, .... (h/t Glennzilla) I have to also point out this line from the WSJ article: "[M]ilitary officers said they hoped that Gen. Petraeus's statement—an unusual move since military commanders rarely get involved in politics—would convince Mr. Jones to change his plans." Rarely, eh? Exhibit A, B, C, ....

Add to the mix a proposed Christian Ground Zero Church and there's plenty of Christian-Muslim hate - and hypocrisy - to go around. What to do? I don't preach fighting hate with hate, so I would ordinarily condemn both burnings and any criticism of the Christian center. However, I'm ambivalent about BCFD. I don't think either gratuitous endorsement or strong disavowal is called for. This is one of those issues where I search for a reasonable middle course.

Yes, it's an empty gesture and could be counter-productive: the opposing sides aren't going to be convinced of anything besides the truth of their positions, and most people in the middle will be turned off at flag burning. Because it absolutely will be associated with burning American flags, both around the world and at home. We need another reminder of how much some Muslims hate us and another link to the Vietnam Era like we need two holes in our heads. However, such a powerful and emotional action can lead to good things, even if the act itself can't be called good.

Love and Hate
Radio Raheem
Which brings me to Do the Right Thing, a Spike Lee joint. For an image to include with this post, I wanted to use Radio Raheem's gold knuckle rings to illustrate the ying-yang aspect of love and hate. The best looking picture on Google image search was from a post on A Fistful of Soundtracks - The Blog. The movie had it's 20th anniversary last June and Jimmy Aquino wrote a great post to commemorate it. My own experience with the film is pretty close to Aquino's. This sentence and link perfectly ties the movie into the flag burning issue:
Two decades after Do the Right Thing's release, even members of the film's cast and crew still can't decide on how they feel about Mookie throwing the trash can.
Admittedly, the trash can is fiction, not an action. Nevertheless, burning Confederate flags could spark the same kind of discussion. So while I'm not going to order the Stars and Bars to use it as a torch, I do hope some people take up the challenge. Maybe I'll head down to the local 9/12 rally and see if anyone will.

UPDATE: I could update until the cows came home, but I'll limit it just to Jesus and Mo: crass.

1 I don't know why TalkingPointsMemo isn't a Google News source. This was the most high profile story I could find. It was widely linked downstream to blogs and discussion boards.