Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guns, Cartoons, and Freedom

I blogged about the “row” over cartoons in the Middle East and have had more thoughts about it. First, I don’t think we should offend for the purpose of offending and we should respect other people’s beliefs. But, we can’t let that respect become a bridle on our own freedoms to think, to write, to draw, and to believe as we see fit.

I’m sensitive about freedom because I own guns and I hunt. People have told me either to my face or in editorials that I’m selfish, I’m a “gun fetishist,” and I deserve no respect. Hunting’s the same way. Even my eating of meat is condemned.

Anything a person does can offend someone else’s deeply held beliefs. Something as innocent as grilling steaks outdoors (maybe indoors too) could offend an ardent vegetarian or a Hindu. Granted, I should take steps to mitigate any offense (not grill while a vegan neighbor is on his porch, whatever); however, such steps might not be possible. In that case, my neighbor will have to develop a thicker skin; otherwise, I would need to change my life and my beliefs to accommodate his beliefs.

There are devotees of excessive multi-culturalism, mavens of political correctness, and the perpetually offended who refuse to develop a thicker skin and expect that change. The cartoons are just a very public example. A moderate Muslim like Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai says, “Any insult to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, is an insult to more than 1 billion Muslims and an act like this [publishing the cartoons] must never be allowed to be repeated.” (Emphasis mine.)

Who will prevent another act in the future? How will it be done? What will the punishment be?

The problem is not cartoons, or eating meat, or hunting, or owning guns. Instead it lies with those who find offense in someone else’s liberty who then tries to legislate that offense out of existence (or kill the offender). Trying to take another person’s freedom (or life) away is wrong and there are better ways of dealing with offense anyway.

For instance, I may see a neo-Nazi cartoon calling for the completion of the Holocaust, and I would be offended. I can cancel a subscription, blog against it, and if the cartoon led to a real attempt to complete the Holocaust I could struggle against that attempt. But, I would not censor the cartoon even if I had the power to do so.

Freedom to think, to speak, to own guns, to hunt, to believe as you will is messy and my hunting or gun ownership might offend you. I could even write something on Ten Ring that might offend your heightened sensibilities.

If I do offend you, write your own blog where you can try to convince others that they should not own a gun. Write a newspaper editorial that shows hunters in a cruel light. You can even insult my religion (what little I have). That’s your right. I won’t try to stop you, or pass laws against you, or burn your office, or threaten to kill you. Just give me the same courtesy.

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