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Paris: cartoons on cartoons

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — free speech, speech balloon style ]

This one’s background, so we understand the vibe of Charlie Hebdo:


Here’s Charlie Hebdo‘s last cartoon before the massacre — probably too recent to be the source of what looks to have been a carefully planned attack:


And a suggestion: the shortest distance between prediction and prophecy is via instinct:

It’s the sense that a scenario is uncannily close to what actually happens later that gives us, in hindsight, the sense that it was prophetic rather than predictive: it’s the frisson, the shiver, that makes the cognitive difference.

Three from Haaretz on the Temple Mount

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — growth and mainstreaming of Rebuild the Temple movements in Israel, parallels with perceived slights against the Prophet of Islam, volatility of the situation ]

You saw the New York Times headline, New Clashes at Site in Jerusalem Holy to Both Muslims and Jews? That was just a taste, here’s more of the story:


Haaretz has posted three pieces in the last couple of days about the movement to build a Third Temple on the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem. I’ll give you the title, link and brief summaries of for the two shorter pieces, and some significant quotes from the Longer one.


I’d also like to suggest considering the issues here as analogues of those in the recent “blasphemy” incidents.

We might think in terms of freedom of speech being akin to freedom of worship — but we should also consider the dangers inherent in what would likely be perceived as a huge provocation, in what may be the most volatile hot-spot on earth.

Consider: building the Third Temple might involve the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whether by an act of God or by human intervention. Whether it would or not is in dispute, as we shall see — but as we shall also see, attempts to destroy it have already been made…

Bearing that in mind..


1: Temple Mount Faithful: From the fringes to the mainstream

Once consigned to messianic extremist fringes, movements fighting the ban on Jewish
prayers on Temple Mount are now endorsed by moderate rabbis. Even the Education Ministry has taken sides by encouraging pupils to visit the site.

If that’s accurate, it’s a significant shift in relation to what my American-Israeli journalist friend Gershom Gorenberg called in his book about the Mount, The End of Days, “the most contested piece of real-estate on earth” — for a quick overview of the importance of the site, see my piece of that name from July of this year.


2: Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court: Jews should be allowed to pray on Temple Mount

Police currently enforce the Muslim ban on Jewish prayer at the site, citing security concerns.

Put those two pieces together, and you have a sense of momentum gathering for an epic clash, one which would have immense apocalyptic significance in terms of those eagerly awaiting a Coming One in each of the three Abrahamic traditions


3: Following the dream of a Third Temple in Jerusalem

More than 90 percent of Israel’s religious public wants to be allowed to pray at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Some groups, though, wish to go even further and build a Third Temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. What fuels the dreams of these Jewish extremists?

Shany Littman, the author of this impressive magazine-length piece which is behind a paywall on the Haaretz site but has been reposted here, expresses through the voices of a diverse group of people she met and talked with, the deep-seated longing behind the movement —

I pray for it three times a day and I wanted to take seriously what I say. I say, ‘Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.’

and the theological logic behind that —

It is the heart of Judaism. Numerically, one-third of the 613 commandments are not fulfilled today because of the absence of a Temple. The Temple is the Jewish public sphere that we lost. I want a transnational Judaism, which will encompass all the commandments.

the sacred politics —

I want to take the movements to a place that is more sensible: a Temple-based state, where the state’s entire content revolves around the Temple.

the somewhat archaic-sounding motivations involved —

the fulfillment of the three commandments the Israelite nation was given in anticipation of its imminent entry into the Land of Israel: to appoint their king and establish his kingdom, to wipe out the seed of Amalek and to build their Holy Temple.

the progress that has already been made in terms of preparation —

only two vessels that are not yet ready are the Ark of the Covenant, which cannot be reconstructed because it contained the stone tablets from Mount Sinai, and the huge external altar, on which the sacrifices were performed.

and recent trends on the part of Israeli police and politicians that seem to show an increasing willingness to allow Jews to pray in what is, after all, their holiest of holy places.


I have been pondering these things, and I think we can helpfully, if carefully, draw a parallel between the extreme caution with which the Israelis have approached the issue of the potential for Jewish behavior — up to and including the possible removal of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and or Dome of the Rock — enraging not just Jerusalem’s Palestinians but the Islamic world, and the far smaller provocations of Charlie Hebdo, the puerile video, and the Qur’an-burning Revd. Jones.

Consider the rules and regulations invoked by the Israeli poloice on Jewish visitors to the Mount (compare also the rabbinic decree in the “traffic sign” at the top of this post):

Because this was the month of Ramadan, no food or drink was to be brought. Also forbidden were praying, bowing, kneeling, singing and anything that might disturb the public order. And have a good day.

Prayer is banned — have I heard that phrase somewhere before?

Prayer is banned because it would be blasphemous — the ironies, the echoes, the resonances and paradoxes here are endless.


To understand the depth of feeling here — and remember, we are only examining the Judaic side of the issue here, and there are other perspectives in play — let’s peer a little deeper into the sacred / sacral motivation:

Sacrifice, not a very “contemporary” word but one with strong, archaic / archetypal meaning, is the heart of the Temple’s purpose:

Animal sacrifice was the primary ritual activity in the Temple. Rivka spoke of the practice yearningly. “Today it is hard to understand what sacrifice is,” she said. “When a person errs, makes a mistake, sins ? instead of bringing himself, he brings a substitute; he brings either an offering or an animal whose blood atones for his soul. This is something we have lost today. The media always talks about korbanot [the Hebrew word “korban” means both “sacrifice” and “victim”] ? victims of traffic accidents, victims of the peace process, victims of terrorism. And I say to myself, despairingly, that there is a place for korbanot ? and it is here. And what is the root of the word ‘korban’? It is from lehitkarev, to draw closer. To draw closer to Hashem.

Indeed, the sacrifice of a red heifer is widely believed to be necessary to purify those who would enter the Temple grounds — note in this next paragraph the reference to the return of the Messiah:

According to religious belief, until the ashes of a red heifer are obtained, access to the courtyard of the Temple is prohibited for Jews (see Numbers 19:1-22 and Mishna tractate Parah). Water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer can cleanse people of the impurity of the dead, which clings to everyone. Tradition holds that there have been only nine ritually suitable red heifers, and that the 10th will appear upon the advent of the Messiah. The absence of the ashes of a red heifer, with the concomitant inability to become ritually clean, is one of the reasons that many Jews are unwilling to visit the Temple Mount. However, the Temple movement activists claim this is only an excuse, and that there is no problem obtaining a red heifer today.


Now back to “on the ground” realities — and risks, including the risks of terrorism and war.

This situation of contesting claims to one of the world’s most sacred sites the has been simmering for quite some time, and I think the gist of the three Haaretz articles could be read as “the stew’s beginning the bubble”.

For another glimpse of the potential volatility of the situation, we can turn to a decade-old piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in the NYT — though if the situation is as significant as I take it to be, you’d also be well-advised to read Gershom Gorenberg’s book The End of Days.

Back in 1999, Goldberg wrote a piece which carried the sub-head:

There are Jews who want to seize the Temple Mount by any means necessary. And Christians who want to see the Jewish Temple rebuilt — and destroyed to bring on Armageddon. And Muslims who will never give up the Dome of the Rock. Will the peace process be stalled by the apocalypse?

It’s a long magazine piece, and like Littman’s piece for Haaretz, well worth pondering. Here I’ll just pull a couple of excerpts that touch on how Temple movement participants view the possible repercussions of their actions. Gershon Salomon is the leader of one such movement, and not infrequently raises funds addressing Christian audiences.

“The mountain is within reach,” Salomon told me. “God is waiting for us to move the mosques and rebuild. The Jews may not be ready, but the Christians are.”

In Casselbery, I saw Salomon work the Christian congregants into a flag-waving — Israeli flag waving — frenzy. After, as the congregants lined up to give Salomon checks and even their jewelry to pay for rebuilding the Temple, I asked him, “Do you think these people believe that God will remove the Dome of the Rock, or that man must remove it?”
He smiled beatifically.
“They know that God will make this miracle happen.”
By the hand of man?
“Only God knows.”

[ … ]

I ask him how he would feel if someone blew up the Dome of the Rock.
“The question is, Why did they build their mosque on our holy mountain, anyway? Who gave them permission? God didn’t.”
Would you be saddened if the destruction of the Dome of the Rock led to war?
“I don’t think it will come to that. The Muslims know in their heart that this belongs to us.”
“But what if it did lead to war?”
Salomon smiled. “The Temple will be a reality. God has promised it.”
But what about war?
“O.K.,” he said impatiently, “so we’ll have a war.”

Returning to the Haaretz magazine piece, we can perhaps temper that last remark with a word of moderation.

Journalist Arnon Segal is the activist son of a member of the Jewish Underground of the 1980s — one of whose leaders, Yehuda Etzion, plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock. His views are accordingly of considerable interest.

Contrary to the usual image of those who are involved with the Temple, they are a great deal more soul-searching and hesitant than people think. People did not want to join with Yehuda Etzion, who was the one who raised the idea [of blowing up the mosque].

“I think it is nonsensical to blow up [Al-Aqsa Mosque]. We would not have achieved anything by doing that. That is not how to solve issues. The Arabs are against the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount as such. If the State of Israel were to permit sacrifices to be made, that would already be enough to make me jump for joy. Obviously my inspiration is from home, but not from a fanatic place. I was not brought up to hate Arabs. But an as-yet unattained Jewish national purpose and the concept of the Temple Mount? those are definitely notions I got at home.”

Segal insists that the debate over the Temple Mount is basically an internal Jewish issue and is not related to the conflict with the Arabs. “I am not an enemy of the Arabs. I do not say that I don’t want Arabs on the Mount. Even Rabbi Dov Lior said that all nations are permitted to pray on the Mount. We will not tell others not to pray to God on the Mount, even though the Muslims do not respect our right to pray there. I am ready to leave them Al-Aqsa. But Al-Aqsa is not the whole Mount.”

And here is Segal’s pragmatic evaluation of the risk:

I don’t think the Arab states are lovers of Zion, even now; if they could destroy us, they would already have done it. The Temple Mount will not irk them more than other things.

Would you want to test that hypothesis in “real life”?

Of films, riots and hatred III: Scorsese and Verhoeven

Monday, September 17th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — The Last Temptation of Christ troubles, an early warning re the upcoming Jesus of Nazareth movie — the blood libel and more ]

American and European Christians, too, can react violently to films they perceive as blasphemous, and this too we should remember as we weigh our own responses to the rioting in Cairo and elsewhere.

Martin Scorsese‘s Last Temptation of Christ gives us a sense of how modern American and European Christians can react to perceived blasphemy, while the forthcoming Paul Verhoeven movie of his own book Jesus of Nazareth will test the degree to which we’ve learned the lessons of a quarter century ago — and of this last week.



Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ: stirred strong feelings when it opened. I was in LA at the time, and was following the controversy fairly closely having attended an early screening, and having both literary and theological interests.

The short video clip below is a little choppy, it doesn’t make it particularly clear that the clips you see are from the film Martin Scorsese made of a novel — written by the Nobel laureate Nikos Kazantzakis — which makes no attempt nor pretense to be a historical or religiously orthodox portrayal of Christ. IMO, it is worth watching for the glimpse it gives of just how strong the undercurrents of emotion aroused by Scorsese’s film were at the time:


I’m bringing this subject up and attending to it in some detail because NBC World News mentioned Martin Scorsese’s movie on the 13th of this month, in an explanation as to Why films and cartoons of Muhammad spark violence, but without gwetting the picture quite right:

Director Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of a book by the same name showed Jesus struggling with lust, depression and doubt, and engaging in sex — in his imaginings — before snapping back to reality and dying on the cross. That movie was seen as blasphemy by some Christians, who — though not violent — were vocal enough to prevent the film from being shown in many parts of the United States.

There may have been no violence done to humans in the US — but there as certainly damage to property, and some vicious threats made, as The Encyclopedia of Religion and Film records:

At the Cineplex Odeon Showcase Theater in New York City, vandals slashed seats and spray-painted threats aimed at the chairman of MCA: “Lew Wasserman: If you release ‘The Last Temptation of Christ,’ we will wait years and decimate all Universal property. This message is for your insurance company.”

In parts of Europe, the violence was more intense:

Overseas, at the September 28 opening in Paris, demonstrators who had gathered for a prayer vigil threw tear gas canisters at the theater’s entrance. Catholic clergy led rock-throwing and fire-bombing assaults on theaters in many French municipalities. A thousand rioters in Athens trashed the Opera cinema, ripping apart the screen and destroying the projection equipment.

In Paris, specifically, the violence severely injured some human targets. From Wikipedia (with their footnotes removed — you can track the various quotes from the original page):

On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater while it was showing the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned. The Saint Michel theater was heavily damaged, and reopened 3 years later after restoration. Following the attack, a representative of the film’s distributor, United International Pictures, said, “The opponents of the film have largely won. They have massacred the film’s success, and they have scared the public.” Jack Lang, France’s Minister of Culture, went to the St.-Michel theater after the fire, and said, “Freedom of speech is threatened, and we must not be intimidated by such acts.”

The Catholic response — from the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris among others — reproved both the blasphemy and the rioting:

The Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, said “One doesn’t have the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother.” After the fire he condemned the attack, saying, “You don’t behave as Christians but as enemies of Christ. From the Christian point of view, one doesn’t defend Christ with arms. Christ himself forbade it.” The leader of Christian Solidarity, a Roman Catholic group that had promised to stop the film from being shown, said, “We will not hesitate to go to prison if it is necessary.”

There was apparently a connection with French far-right politics, too:

The attack was subsequently blamed on a Christian fundamentalist group linked to Bernard Antony, a representative of the far-right National Front to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and the excommunicated followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church on July 2, 1988. Similar attacks against theatres included graffiti, setting off tear-gas canisters and stink bombs, and assaulting filmgoers.

There were legal proceedings following the Saint Michel incident, and it’s notable that Fr. Gérard Calvet OSB, founder and Prior of the Benedictine Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux, testified at the tribunal on behalf of the convicted youths, describing their motives if not their mode of expression as “noble”. Would that term be equally applicable to protesters of blasphemies against other faiths? We now live in a dense-packed world where such comparisons are easily made.

Let’s pause for a minute over the twinned remarks of the late (and widely respected) Cardinal Lustiger concerning Last Temptation

Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, said “One doesn’t have the right to shock the sensibilities of millions of people for whom Jesus is more important than their father or mother.” After the fire he condemned the attack, saying, “You don’t behave as Christians but as enemies of Christ. From the Christian point of view, one doesn’t defend Christ with arms. Christ himself forbade it.”

and compare the remarks of a similarly authoritative religious figure in Libya to the Innocence of Muslims video:

Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, has issued a fatwa condemning Tuesday’s killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens along with three other American diplomatic staff and a number of Libya security guards. He said those involved were criminals who were damned by their action.

He also condemned the production of any film, picture or article insulting the Prophet Mohammad or any of the prophets by “extreme fanatics” in the US or elsewhere. The Prophet Muhammad, Ghariani said, had specifically forbidden the killing of ambassadors and envoys.


Almost a quarter century has passed since Scorsese’s movie opened, but as I said above, we will soon have an opportunity to show what we have learned from those lamentable events in Paris and the more recent tragedies in Benghazi, Cairo and elsewhere.

Paul Verhoeven — the director of such blockbusters as RoboCop, the original Total Recall, and Basic Instinct — has raised the financing for his upcoming movie Jesus of Nazareth, based on his book of the same name, and scripted by Roger Avary, who shared an Oscar with Quentin Tarrentino for their Pulp Fiction screenplay.

Verhoeven, be it noted, is not only a writer and movie director, but also a member of the Jesus Seminar — a group of scholars which, as Wikipedia nicely puts it, “treats the canonical gospels as historical sources that represent Jesus’ actual words and deeds as well as elaborations of the early Christian community and of the gospel authors” and prepares color-coded editions of the gospels suggesting which sayings of Jesus should be considered original, and which are better understood as later additions.

Here, to give you an idea of what may be on the horizon, is an excerpt from a quick and informal take on the upcoming movie by an admirer of Verhoeven:

Deadline reports that the legendary Paul Verhoeven — a guy who, amazingly, only directed three movies in the past fifteen years — has received financing to adapt his own book, Jesus of Nazareth, which discounts every mythical story surrounding Christ and, instead, opts to present him as a simple human figure with a message powerful enough to radiate throughout time. Roger Avary (Tarantino‘s story partner on Pulp Fiction) will write the film, while Muse Productions are doing the proper backing.

Almost any work going against the long-held Biblical grain will get groups up in arms — no, I don’t even need to provide examples — but the claims of Nazareth are, even in this context, still mighty contentious. Most notable is the idea that Jesus is not the son of God, but was actually the product of Mary being raped by a Roman soldier; so, right off the bat, you’re discounting the entire foundation of his story.

I am pointing this out because right now would be a good time for the various churches to begin a general conversation about the film-maker’s right to hold an opinion, write a book and make a movie, the hurt that may be felt by believers, and the importance of responding without hatred or violence when offended.


In our concern with matters of Christian and Muslim issues, let us not lose sight of the fact that Jews too have movies made about them that may not only hurt feelings but also represent real threats against them, reminiscent of Nazi and earlier Russian antisemitic propaganda fabrications.

From the copious “blood libel” entry in Wikipedia:

In 2003 a private Syrian film company created a 29-part television series Ash-Shatat (“The Diaspora”). This series originally aired in Lebanon in late 2003 and was broadcast by Al-Manar, a satellite television network owned by Hezbollah. This TV series, based on the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, shows the Jewish people as engaging in a conspiracy to rule the world, and presents Jews as people who murder Christian children, drain their blood and use this blood to bake matzah.

MEMRI has a report with further details, and a MEMRI clip of the scene in which a Christian child is killed by Jews has been posted on YouTube, with the comment:

Al-Shatat: Jews Murder A Christian Child and Use His Blood for Passover Matzos. anti Semite Arab propaganda against Jews, Judaism and Israel.

The following is a scene from the Syrian-produced TV series Al-Shatat. Al-Shatat was first aired on Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV during the month of Ramadan 2003, and then on two Iranian channels during Ramadan 2004. Al-Mamnou’ TV, a new Jordanian channel, is airing Al-Shatat during Ramadan 2005.

It is worth recalling, too, that Mel Gibson‘s film, The Passion of the Christ, was perceived by many Jews, Christians and others as anti-Semitic — and that nonetheless the Orthodox Jew and conservative movie critic Michael Medved wrote:

The possibility of anti-Jewish violence in response to the film has been irresponsibly emphasized and has become, self-fulfilling prophecy. In parts of Europe and the Islamic world, anti-Semitic vandalism and violence occur daily, and hardly need a film by a Hollywood superstar to encourage them. In this context, Jewish denunciations of the movie only increase the likelihood that those who hate us will seize on the movie as an excuse for more of hatred.


I trust it is not too late to wish our Jewish readers l’shana tova: may your apples be dipped in honey and all our days bathed in peace.

SOPA: So Bad, even Hitler is Against It

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Of Quantity and Quality I: weighing man against book

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron ]


It may be that the hardest thing for a human to wrestle with is the correlation of quality with quantity.


I’m writing this post by way of a response to the comments of J Scott Shipman and Fred Zimmerman on my earlier post, Burning scriptures and human lives — but as I said in a comment of my own there, not in a point by point fashion, more in the manner of a meditation. Our conversation grew out of a discussion of the killing of humans and the burning of Qur’ans, and perhaps I should say at the outset that in my view, the burning of sacred books is in general a pretty offensive business, the taking of human lives in general even more so.


If, however, we wish to know our enemies, as Sun Tzu advises, let alone to love them, as Christ suggests, we might reflect that what is happening these days in Afghanistan in many ways resembles what was happening in Europe a few short centuries back:

A little later, after the definition of the dogma of transubstantiation by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, a new libel surfaced, known as host desecration. According to this calumny, the Jews obtained a consecrated host from the mass, with the assistance of a Christian who retained it from the administration of communion, took it to their synagogue or homes and subjected it to every indignity, including trampling on it and sticking pins into it. … The accusation was made for the first time at Belitz, near Berlin; all the Jews of the town were burned. One hundred instances of the charge have been recorded, in many cases leading to massacres.

William Nichols, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, pp 239-40

William Gibson is frequently quoted as saying, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed” – and by the same token, the past is still with us, and no more evenly distributed.

For myself, I don’t see how I can condone or judge those whose values are as radically different from my own as those Christians, these Afghans – or the “religious but unstable” woman in Spartanburg County, Tennessee, who chained up and burned her nephew’s dog because it had chewed her Bible and was clearly a “devil dog”. Thankfully, it is neither mine to condemn nor to forgive.


I value human life way more than I value any physical book – and I revere those insights, not infrequently found in scriptures, which encourage love, wonder, compassion, insight, wisdom, peace, generosity, gratitude and praise…

I revere them enough that I can understand Sir Thomas More preferring to surrender his own life rather than to go against that which his own traditions, scriptures, and sacraments had taught him to venerate. Likewise, I can find no fault in the Zen of the monk who famously burned a wooden statue of the Buddha when the firewood ran out… a tale that is worth repeating:

In a famous zen story, a travelling monk was resting in a monastery during a cold night. He took down a wooden Buddha statue and used it as fire wood.When the resident monks saw what he did, they became very angry and demanded to know why he did that.

He replied “I am looking for sarrira (holy relics).

The monks then laugh and exclaimed: “How can one find sarrira in a wooden statue?”

In reply, the travelling monk then said “Well then, can you pass me that other wooden statues also?


I once climbed the many stairs and stood on the small platform atop the head of the great 6th century Buddha of Bamiyan, which just ten years ago was demolished by the Taliban, and I remember that day with great affection.

Historically speaking it is a tragedy for the world and the Afghan people that the Buddhas were destroyed.

What Buddha taught, remains, however. What the Beatitudes taught, remains., despite what dogs may chew. What the Qur’an teaches remains, beyond the pastor’s fire. What the host at the Eucharist embodies, remains…

It is in the sense of what I have written above that I wrote, “The value of one human life is the value of the world. The Qur’an is indestructible. It is deeply inadvisable to threaten, attempt or facilitate the destruction of man, world, or book…”


Mind you, I am not suggesting that others should share my view – my own life experiences just don’t encourage me to use scriptures or credal statements against others until I have first “removed the beam from my own eye”. In the meanwhile, I take my inspiration where I can find it.


And find it I do in this comment on my previous post, from Jimpa:

Books are paper and ink and can be republished. A human life is a miracle of creation (regardless of whose theory is used to explain it.) There is only one of each of us there are no copies of anyone, even cloning can not create a replacement.

To me, this gets to the spirit and clarity of the matter.


But there’s also its soul, its blues if you like, its duende – and I find that quality – another voice in the music of inspiration, perhaps, in this impassioned post by Abu Muqawama, aka Andrew Exum:

The crime was horrific, and the mob outside the jail was angry. They had gathered before and demanded the death of the man inside, but a conservative cleric, who ran a religious school for boys, had appeared and told them all to go home and repent before God. Because the men in the mob were all religious and obeyed this particular cleric, they went home as he had ordered. When the crowd returned a few days later, though, while that cleric was away preaching elsewhere, they fought their way past the guards and found the man for whom they were looking. The man was from a minority group in the area, and though he was actually innocent of the crime of which he had been accused, that did not stop the violent mob from beating him horribly, tying a rope around his neck and throwing him off a bridge while hundreds cheered.

The year was 1906, and the place was my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The name of the man killed was Ed Johnsen, a black man who had been accused of the brutal rape of a white woman, Nevada Taylor. (The conservative cleric? Well, that madrasa he founded has produced several U.S. senators, governors, businessmen and one dyspeptic defense policy blogger.) …

The reason I mention the story, though, is because it popped into my head when I read my friends Dion and Maria’s account of what had happened in Mazar-e Sharif a few days ago when several innocent United Nations workers were brutally murdered because some fundamentalist crank in Florida thought it would be a hot idea to videotape himself burning a Quran. It was not that long ago, we should remind ourselves going into a discussion of what happened in northern Afghanistan and why, when the ugly kinds of mob scenes we saw in Mazar might have also happened in the United States. (The last lynching of an innocent black man of which I am aware took place in the American South in 1981.)

I see those two posts as working together like head and heart — the “soul” and richness of feeling in Abu Muqawama’s post adds depth to the “spirit” and clarity of thought in Jimpa’s. To have a high standard of measurement is fine — to forget one’s own human frailty, not wise at all.

[ to be continued in Of Quantity and Quality II: weighing man against world ]

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