SEPTEMBER 11th 2010
I intended to avoid writing anything about this irritating snake-oil salesman* but now that we have been launched into yet another anniversary of the 11/09/2010 event it has unearthed a lot of comment on such matters on a broader front. Before going there, a quick look at Pastor Jones. Why, given his extraordinarily modest appeal to anyone with a working brain, has anyone in the Muslim world taken him seriously? President Karzai, to take just one example, has told us (the world that is) that if this man and his strange followers were to burn some copies of the Koran it would be humiliating for Muslims. I can see that it could be used as a pretext for a lot of people who wished to lead violent opposition to American forces or advisers in the Middle East and S.E. Asia to stir up hatred - but humiliation? That is a matter for them, I don't see it myself.

It is clear, however, that some U.S. citizens felt humiliated by the demolition of the Twin Towers. There may be some justification there if they thought such an attack impossible, and for those whose job it was to prevent such an attack. There is certainly justification for their anger, to the extent that the casualties from the towers were not 'collateral damage', they were targeted civilians. The attack on the Pentagon could be said to have a military target. The initial removal of the Taliban from their ruling roost in Afghanistan was a proper riposte in every way, the history of their vandalism in their own country justified it. The choice of the removal of Saddam will be debated for a long time, all we need to note here is that without the stirring of the American majority by the demolition of iconic buildings in the heart of their business capital, it could not have been done. The lack of a military causal connection between the two is irrelevant. The sleeping giant was woken, so anything that had to be done needed to be done while the opportunity was there. That level of awakenness does not last in the absence of action.

It is the 'stirring of the American majority' that I wish to address here, and exactly what it is we are stirring. How many 'Pastor Jones' are there any how many are his potential recruits? The disturbing thought for me is that this man is a white, Anglo-Saxon Christian Protestant, as am I, claiming to champion the cause of Christian Protestants, of which I am one. Suddenly I find myself in the shoes of a Muslim who has been told that the terrorist acts perpetrated all over the world are being done in the name of my religion, my philosophy, my race or all three, and that religious intolerance comes from the roots of my civilization!

In the 1960s America, as I remember it, was seen as the 'great melting pot', where every nationality and religion was at home if they waived the flag. It is a big country, though, and much of this tolerance was achieved because there was room. Many Americans liked then and now to tell the story that the founding Pilgrim Fathers, and others who came, were people fleeing from persecution and  religious intolerance, but is this true? Certainly not in the case of the Pilgrim Fathers and many who came from the British Isles. They would be better described as a mixture of trouble makers and misfits and puritanical religious bigots who would not compromise, leaving a tolerant country that was glad to see the back of them. Pastor Jones would be at home with them most likely. There has indeed been a great melting pot over the years, but there is also a strain that continues rather like the Taliban continue in Afghanistan, stuck in an understanding of the world that brooks no evolution of thought, no seeking and finding. They remain looking through their glass, darkly, unaware of the global or national treasures within our grasp.

Nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America? Perhaps we had better do the math and see what we are up against.

* It seems we do snake-oil salesmen an injustice. Snake-oil was one of the few potions sold at the time that had genuine uses. Obviously not for the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers!

APRIL 01 2011
The almost inevitable result of Pastor Jones stupidity has come to pass. He is totally unrepentant, claiming this proves his point, and that this behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is not tolerated, but that does not mean it is a good idea to provoke it.

At least eight foreign UN staff are killed in northern Afghanistan during a protest over the burning of the Koran in a US church