It only takes one lapse of judgment to ruin things for everyone. In this case, the lapse of judgment was that of the man who released a video that managed to enrage what seems to be every single Muslim in the world at once.
Protests at U.S. embassies in twenty countries, from London to Sri Lanka and all across Northern Africa, broke out in record numbers Friday, with protestors burning American flags and chanting, “Death to America” or “Allahu akbar,” phrases we haven’t heard seriously in some time. After Friday prayer let out, irate Muslims stormed the streets and set fire to anything American, whether it was a school or the embassy. Anti-American fever was hitting another peak.
These weren’t some isolated extremists. They don’t have a history of violence or drug dealing. These are common, salt-of-the-Earth people, some of who have been highly educated and are righteously indignant about the film, but they are lashing out against the wrong people.
The protestors are attacking, brutalizing and destroying American lives and properties abroad over the actions of an unsanctioned nutcase living in California. The movie itself is highly offensive, but you only need to look at the cast and crew to see how this might not end well. Director Nakoula Bassely Nakoula has had a criminal history of fraud and a film history of producing pornography. Several of the actors in the film, who profess they were duped into performing in a fictional movie and had their lines dubbed over with anti-Islamic rhetoric, were also porn stars.
What was a recipe for a pretty bad snuff film by itself has now managed to put the lives of several Americans at stake, and is something that Nakoula should pay for dearly. He wasn’t expressing his first amendment rights; he wasn’t expressing his opinions or beliefs. The film was purely inflammatory, and did what few YouTube trolls could ever hope to do — put the lives of innocent people at stake.
Nakoula’s guilt in this is a non-issue. He’s the lowest form of human scum and an insult to film and all organized religions. But almost as bad as this film, however, is the Muslim reaction. Not the explosiveness of it, but its direction.
The American government is not in control of the content produced by its citizens, nor was this film a sponsored media. It is, by the sickest form of loopholes, protected by the Constitution, but that same protection also applies to peaceful protests that have stopped similar acts of poor judgement.
The attacks against Americans across the world are unwarranted and senseless violence that do not settle the stereotype New Media has placed in so many people’s heads. I hope that our Muslim brothers and sisters know not all Americans are like that nutcase, just as I hope to remind my friends the Muslims with whom America is at war are their version of the crazy Christian cults we have here at home.
With these protests, however, it seems the case is being harder and harder to make. Twenty American embassies are under siege by people who are unable to understand that though the film was not approved by the government, it must be protected by our government as part of the Constitution. Everyone here hates it as much as they do, but despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pleas, and now demands, that the violence must stop.
Here’s a better idea. Afghanistan receives about $10 billion in aid from the government that their people are now currently protesting. Pakistan receives $4.4 billion; Egypt receives $2 billion. The buck stops here and it’s going to stop right now if these governments can’t get their people under control like Egypt has, clearing the area around the embassy and making sure no more violence can occur. A protest is a protest, but what these have been are just violent riots, an excuse exposing an already unsteady trust between Arab nations and the U.S.
But why not go further? It’s obvious that people don’t want us around, that the U.S. just isn’t the world’s poster boy anymore. Anti-American sentiment is high world round, but we continue to station troops to keep public order in countries where mobsters and politicians are one in the same. We continue to pump money into their infrastructure, to invest in them, in the hopes that they will be stable and powerful allies in the future. No more, I say. If that’s the way people feel, then no more America in their country, and no more American money either. We’re in a debt crisis enough as it is, and wasting money on people that hate us isn’t going to help. It’s high time that we take our ball and go home.
James Wang is a history sophomore and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.