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My Gawd Is Funnier Than Yours

Written by Wanda Pasz Friday, 03 February 2006

Maybe I'm just insensitive but I find it really bizarre when angry mobs take to the streets to protest a cartoon. The recent outpouring of outrage by some Islamists about a cartoon caricature featuring their god with some explosive headgear has had my jaw dropping with every report about flag-stompings, street riots, fatwah alerts and calls for beheadings.

The only thing that's even more baffling is the reaction of the mainstream media.

Charges of racism and blasphemy are being leveled against the cartoonist, the Danish publication that printed his cartoons and pretty much anyone who is not completely over-the-top outraged by them all.

It's a load of sanctimonious crap.

While I agree that everyone is free to believe in the deity of their choosing, I have little tolerance for anyone who believes the rest of us need worship at his, her or its' altar. Blasphemy is only blasphemy if you're a believer in whatever god is being kicked to the curb. Suggesting that anyone who finds the controversial caricatures anything but offensive is a blasphemer is really dumb. So is the suggestion that the cartoons are racist.

The fact that the deity that is the subject of the humorous portrayal is associated with a religion doesn't make the criticism racist. Pretty much anything critical of anybody could be considered racist as we are all members of one race or another. There is no incitement connected with the cartoon to violence against any race or group of people and none has, to the best of anyone's knowledge occurred. Satire, parody and comedic depictions of people, places and things are common forms of expression.

Freedom of expression, to those of us who believe in liberty and equality, allows - in fact protects - the right of any one of us to express our views about whoever, whenever and however we choose even if it pisses somebody else off. This is a right that is fundamental in our democratic societies. The self-righteous and their deities cannot be allowed to discourage us from exercising these rights no matter how mad we make them doing so.

The right to criticize or question tends to result in unflattering portrayals of people, organizations and even gods. Indeed, the higher-and-mightier and their earthly agents have been the subject of harsh criticism throughout the ages. In a lot of cases, this had something to do with a lot of bad things that were being done in their names. Killin' in the name-o-the-lord - whichever one - is the kind of activity that draws criticism. It seems to me that this is the message in the controversial cartoonery.

I have to say that it seems a bit odd and disingenous that people who are committed to their god and believe him/her/it to be omnipotent would get so bent out of shape about a satirical picture in some foreign newspaper. It's unfathomable that the omnipotent could be hurt or disempowered by such things. If your god is so mighty, it's hard to imagine why he would get his shorts in a know about a cartoon.

But then again, tyranny always insists on deference and tolerance while meting out the opposite.

Many commentators have characterized this ridiculous flap as what happens when democracy and theocracy cross paths. Well, it doesn't need to happen. Here's a perfect recipe for peaceful co-existence between the two: We continue to express ourselves as is our right. They continue to believe in whatever or whoever they want to believe in. We don't interfere with their right to believe and they don't shove their beliefs down our throats. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

About the only thing more baffling than the over-reaction to the cartoon, is the mainstream media's cold feet about publishing it. In an act of supreme wimpery, an editor of a French newspaper who dared to go there - because it was news - was fired for his lack of sensitivity to the censorship-seeking mob.

It's not the first time cartoons have caused a ruckus. In 2002, Pullitzer-prize winning cartoonist Doug Marlette caused an outpouring of indignation by expressing his views about the toxic mix of religion and politics in the Middle East.

Marlette is well known for his irreverent portrayals of the well-known and the sanctimonious. The self-confessed Tool of Satan have a track record of poking the omnipotent. It's hard to see racism in his work. What is evident in the reaction to it, however, is intolerance and zealotry.

As the year wraps up, Marlette is on the receiving end of an Islamist fatwa protesting a dead-on editorial cartoon that ran last week, while his novel is struggling against a continuing tide of opposition from unseen but powerful forces. Marlette's cartoon, which has prompted thousands of threatening e-mails, depicts a man dressed in Middle-Eastern garb driving a Ryder truck bearing a nuclear missile with the caption: "What would Mohammed drive?" Anyone half awake understands that the cartoon plays off the "What Would Jesus Drive" campaign against gas-guzzling SUVs and other recent events, namely that fundamentalist Islamists have hijacked their religion to justify murdering Americans.

American Fatwa Coming To A Bookstore Near You

Speaking of icon-bashing, I don't recall angry mobs of Catholics taking to the streets over cartoons depicting the the Pope cozying up to nazis. While Catholic functionaries expressed their dismay about this humorous take on the Hail Mary, no one has been recalling ambassadors or howling for the cartoonist's hide. And holy shit look at this one. Then there's South Park whose creators have taken irreverence to a whole new level. They crap on everyone. Check out the Bloody Mary episode. So far, no one's been struck dead nor have there been any calls for executions or similar unpleasantness.

Maybe some gods care more than others about how they are portrayed in earthly publications but I think that if they really do exist on some level, they don't care at all about such things. Neither should their followers.

Since the mainstream media is too afraid to publish the controversial cartoon, here it is.

A blogger goes where angels fear to tread.

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