I’m still trying to come to terms with my feelings (mostly angry) regarding the vicious attacks on American diplomatic posts in Benghazi and Cairo. Like the author of the American embassy’s twitter feed, I certainly deplore gratuitous insults directed at any religion. But I would have more forthrightly articulated the connection between freedom of speech and religious freedom. The two are intimately connected, which means that, unlike some, we have to protect the rights of error, not only those of truth.
I don’t at the moment attribute to the host governments the opinions and actions of the protestors. How they handle the messes their lax security created, how they interact with the Obama Administration (which ought to do more than issue condemnations), will go a long way toward settling the matter for me. Will they hold the attackers accountable? Will they insist that an insult directed at “the truth” is deplorable, but not cause for violence and mayhem?
As for the protestors themselves, we shouldn’t mistake their motives or the challenge they pose. The choice of September 11th, the “Osama” chants at the American embassy in Cairo, and the desecration of an American flag (and its replacement with one that is associated with al Qaeda) all make their intentions clear enough. They certainly believe that only their truth has rights, and we benighted Americans should submit to it. They continue to pose an existential threat, even if (for most of us) it’s less immediate than it was eleven years ago.
My prayers go out to the families of the murdered diplomats.