Thursday, September 13, 2012

A profile in stupidity

Mitt Romney may be an absolute whiz when it comes to making money by shutting down companies and outsourcing jobs, but when it comes to understanding the way the real world works, he's an idiot. That's the only explanation I can see for his behavior in response to recent events in the Middle East. Moreover, not only is he an idiot, he is a craven political opportunist willing to make "profit" from capitalizing on the deaths of devoted American public servants who put their lives on the line every day to protect and defend the interests of this country. In that sense, not only is he an idiot and an opportunist, he is unpatriotic.

I can write that last paragraph because we have freedom of speech in this country. It is a concept that is sometimes hard for people in other parts of the world to fully understand. So when they see or hear of an offensive anti-Muslim film like the one that was used as an excuse to incite the riot in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans from the consulate there, it is hard for them to understand why the U.S. government cannot just arrest the perpetrator of the obscenity and shut down distribution of the film. When the U.S. government fails to do that, they jump to the conclusion that the government itself condones the film and its message and they use that reasoning to stir up hatred against the government. The concept that a government cannot control what its citizens say or write or what images they load to YouTube is literally foreign to them.

And so we have riots occurring around the Middle East today and U.S. diplomats lives' are being put in danger because another bigot with a political agenda of his own produced a film deriding the Prophet Mohammed and insulting the Muslim religion and loaded it on YouTube, an act that was calculated to incite violence thus lending credence to the self-fulfilling prophecy that Muslims are violent people. His actions may not be against the law (although that is yet to be determined, I think) but they are most certainly immoral and unpatriotic. Anyone who would knowingly, willingly put the lives of our public servants in other countries in peril cannot be said to have the interests of this country at heart and they deserve our censure and disgust.

And what of politicians in this country who would take advantage of such a volatile situation to try to advance their own political agendas? Yes, people like Mitt Romney and the few like Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, loudmouth radio host Rush Limbaugh, Senator John Kyl, and half-Governor Sarah Palin who have supported him. They deserve a double serving of our censure and disgust and they deserve to be run out of public life altogether.

Ironically, as demonstrations, some of them violent, spread across the Middle East in response to a film that is utterly stupid and without any artistic merit, the United States is apparently viewed more positively by the ordinary citizens of the area than it has been in many years. There has, for example, been an outpouring of outrage from citizens of both Libya and Egypt over the violence that took the lives of Libyan ambassador Christopher Stevens and others. Likewise, the governments of Libya and Egypt have expressed their outrage and regret. It should be noted also that Libyans fought to defend the consulate in Benghazi from its attackers and that at least ten of them died defending it. While it is natural for Americans to focus on the deaths of our own citizens, we must not lose sight of that and we must remember and honor the memories of those brave Libyans as well.      

Free speech is a difficult concept. It may be our greatest strength as a country, but it can cut both ways and it can be used against us. It is sometimes a burden as well as a gift, because we have to put up with a lot of stupid speech to ensure that we protect everyone's rights. But I think that the very least that we can expect of someone running for the highest office in our country is that she or he speak with probity, thoughtfulness, and intelligence about issues, and if s/he cannot meet that standard then s/he should remain silent. Mitt Romney should have remained silent. Instead, he gave us a memorable and devastating profile in stupidity.

UPDATE: And then there are the thoughtful responses - Pictures from a pro-American Libyan rally.

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