Friday, February 24, 2006

Just Say It

To the mainstream media:

The reason why you won't publish the Danish cartoons is because you're scared. It's because you don't want your buildings to be the next targets of jet planes. It's because you want to keep your heads on -- literally. It's because you really do believe there is a war of civilizations, though you won't say it, and any false move could ignite the seas.

If you would just say that fear motivates your censuring some cartoons, I might respect you more. Because fear is real. Sometimes it can't easily be overcome. Sometimes the price of freedom is very high, and we stumble, dither and grope before we stand.

So please just tell the truth. Don't lie and say that you won't publish the cartoons out of 'respect' for Muhammad. Western presses have long, long since let that noun go as a relic of antiquity. And that's fine -- we pay the price for free speech by enduring disrespect -- or else we become a culture mutes.

Have the presses of the free world become mutes?

I remember reading accounts of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Young Iranian zealots ran across mine fields in order to clear them. Well, certainly some of those kids were unwilling martyrs; but many weren't. They had the same fire as Japanese kamikazes -- the same viscous fervor, inspired by divine afterlife. I remember thinking: Boy, I wonder if we can hold it together enough to fight these guys someday if they have nukes.

Are you fearful? I am. And I admit it. Very soon we will need to find the courage of our forefathers whose burdens we have inherited, not surpassed. We've had it too easy for too long, and now we're soft on fear. We call fear respect.

Fear is not respect. Fear is fear. So just say it.