There’s a store selling a t-shirt with an upside-down United States flag on it. Those who hold the flag sacred are outraged and boycotting the store. Many, like me, who have a nuanced and ambivalent view of what the flag represents, think the shirt is rude. I wouldn’t wear one, and I find their window display childishly disrespectful.
Now, what if a couple of people, not content to protest or boycott, went off the rails about this and bombed the store? What if they actually killed people who wore or created the shirt?
Judging from current events, we would then see waves of people buying the shirt, holding “lampoon the flag” drawing contests, and being hailed as anti-terrorist heroes.
For my part, I still wouldn’t wear it, for a simple reason: millions of people consider it rude, people who would never threaten me for wearing it, but would just be hurt and offended. Decent people seek not to cause unnecessary offense. Why would I insult the many people who are hurt by an upside-down flag, just to show I’m unbowed by a few nutcases who get violent at the sight?
Yet that’s what I’m seeing from supposedly calm, considerate people when it comes to “Draw Muhammad” contests. For example, someone on Facebook commented about such a contest, “I would prefer if it was a comic drawing of/about all religions and ideologies – Islam included. But I would back it as it is. The only way to undo the presumption of a right not to be offended is to offend.”
“The only way to undo the presumption of a right not to be offended is to offend”? That lacks imagination; I can think of six other ways before breakfast. But more to the point, very few people do presume they have a right not to be offended. They’re just like me; they would rather be treated politely than rudely. They don’t want people walking up to them on the street and spitting on their shoes, they don’t want to be called nasty names, they don’t want their sacred symbols stomped on, and they would never respond with violence to anyone who did those things. They would just feel bad.
Someone who goes out of their way to make these folks feel bad is not heroic. They’re just having an adolescent tantrum, trying to pass off nastiness as courage.