Thursday, September 27, 2012

That insulting movie trailer about Mohamed; what’s an offense to honor anyway?

The most shouted about perspective of that trailer is, of course, the rioting eventuating in an ambassador’s murder. Such a trailer, as obscure as obscene, was twittered into wider violence. Actually, trying to apply the cultural norms of the Twenty First Century to the Seventh takes a leap of the imagination long enough should put a cramp in anyone’s fingers.

My son works with a couple of Hollywood companies so I asked him what was being said.. He just rolled his eyes. The editorials in professional media were that it was so amateurish everyone associated with it should go into hiding! Maybe there ought to be more stand-up comics on Middle Eastern television to handle such problems.

From another perspective, however, we can learn from the event by seeing the response as similar to “an affair of honor.” This makes sense of why a smart American ambassador in Egypt after the initial rioting issued the statement he did rather than “throwing his gloves on the table,” to use a traditional phrase.

 We actually see the prickly sense of honor in our western world, too. One Christmas Eve my wife and I were having dinner in a small dining room in Bavaria. She nudged me and I looked at the next table. An elegant elderly gentleman was sitting there with his party. On his check were two elongated scars, proud remembrances of a duel in a German university fraternity. We hear mutterings about male relatives in the Middle East executing some young female with stone throwing because she had gotten pregnant; I have also heard rumors about sewing a horse hair into a saber cut to ensure its prominence. The whole thing died out back in the time of World War II. There was enough blood spilled to satisfy several generations of students. 

Actually, we Americans are not too far away from such events. Andy Jackson – President Jackson - was murderous enough to kill a man in a duel for making a snide remark about his wife. About twenty years later the multiplicity of small printing presses had changed the tide of public opinion; Abraham Lincoln could write his comic political pieces – by using an equally funny sounding made-up name. My father once told me, as a matter of fact, that when he first ran for public office in Texas the application form had a section in which he had to swear he had never participated in a duel.

Things do evolve. I like to switch around the television news channels after a big event to see how each handles it. On one there was a loud mouth shouting that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, “had blood on her hands.” Lucky for him. In another time he would be pushing up grass under some oak tree as the sun came up. I haven’t heard, but you would think, however, that a TV executive and a security guard would have marched him to an outside door and thrown the contents of his desk out in the street after him.

I have not checked the references, but the quotation sounds very much like the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy, “Speak the truth In love.” It’s a goal. When my wife edits this piece she will undoubtedly have her opinion…

If you are married, how about reading this piece to your spouse, 

                                                                                                       discuss it with your family

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