Sept. 1 2010 09:57 AM

Extremists think the First Amendment applies only to them

“NUKE ALL RAGHEADS” was painted across the rear window of the ’90s-era, silvery-blue, sun-splotched Buick. There were small American flags attached to the driver- and passenger-side doors, each snapping in the wind with fury as the car growled past me in the fast lane on Interstate 5. I rolled my eyes and tried to pretend I wasn’t angered as the ugly message got smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared from my vision.

That was Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, and like many others around the world, I was still trying to find my balance in the “new normal.”

Already, critical thinking had been swept away and replaced by jingoism and a caustic patriotic fervor. Two days earlier, I’d watched with great skepticism as our then-president stood bow-legged atop a pile of rubble, a bullhorn in one hand and the shoulder of an exhausted firefighter in the other. It was a photo-op made in publicist heaven.

“We’ll smoke ’em outta their holes,” he said. “You’re either with us or with the terrorists,” he said. By Sept. 20, the man widely perceived as a spoiled dolt on Sept. 10 was suddenly enjoying a historical 90-percent approval rating. America had had an abrupt and virulent case of amnesia. I had hoped we were smarter than that. But we weren’t, and we’re not.

Nine years later, the un-thinking zombie people among us not only have the bullhorn, but with it—and the complicity of Republicans and the still-spineless Democratic leadership, as well—they’re framing the debate.

As usual. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Those of us who cling to reason until our nails peel back, and point to the First Amendment until our joints lock, can see the truth through the agenda-driven spin. But it’s pretty dang tough to fight the hysteria ginned up over the Mosque at Ground Zero Islamic Cultural Center, when leaders like Howard Dean and Harry Reid retaliate with a hem and a haw. Their let’s-try-to-find-a-compromise legitimization of right-wing idealoguery is about as effective as if they showed up to a duel, whipped out their guns and fired off little yellow banners reading “POW!” Meanwhile, to the cacophony of Christian imperialists screeching about hallowed ground and the Islamization of America, a privileged college kid the media insists on absolving as “drunken” went all West Side Story with his pocket-knife on the face of a Manhattan cabbie. Ahmed Sharif answered “Yes” when the fare asked whether he was a Muslim. That was Sharif ’s second mistake. His first was going to his job of 15 years that morning, only to be violently attacked by someone who didn’t like his way of life.

Hmmm—that’s eerily familiar. It’s reminiscent of something. What could it be? Oh! I know! It’s like the 3,000 people—Christians,

Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Scientologists, Hedonists, Nudists, Humanists, Wiccans, members of Iglesia Maradoniana and probably a Satan worshipper or two—who showed up to work at One World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

It cannot be understated that all who died that day deserve to be equally commemorated.

And speaking of commemorating them, Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., is having a bonfire on Sept. 11 to do just that. The international burn a Koran Day event will be held at Jones’ church, the ironically named Dove World Outreach Center. I often think of book burning and peace doves and world outreach in the same meditation, don’t you?

According to Jones’s website, his 50-member church is “a New Testament, Charismatic, Non- Denominational Church that believes in the whole Bible and that we are to act in response to the word of God in order to change the times we are living in. Those times have gotten further and futher [sic] away from God; full of deception like abortion and same sex marriages.” I really like the charismatic part.

Pastor Terry is as egomaniacal and presumptuous (i.e. cray-zay!) as the next extremist and claims to know the difference between the word of God and the dirty lies of Allah. Even though he told New York Times reporter Damien Cave that, when it comes to his famil iarity with the Koran, “I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says.”

I personally prefer to read a book before I burn it. But I like broad horizons, while Pastor Terry? Well. His worldview is smaller than his penis.

Normally, a dude with God’s ear and a flaccid member bigger than his global awareness is largely discounted by the masses as a streetcorner-proselytizing whack job with little impact on so much as whether a dung beetle rolls or buries its “food.” And, too, it’s not like he’s the first white Christian to exhibit nincompoopy aggression toward Muslims; Florida, specifically, has seen a recent uptick in acts of domestic terrorism aimed at Muslims.

But as Cave pointed out, Pastor Terry’s bonfire has earned him denouncements from a number of Islamic leaders around the world; one English Islamic group is urging its members to “rise up and act.” Not surprisingly, Terry is deaf to the possibility that his actions are dangerously inflammatory and in fact feels he’s the one being persecuted. Not the brightest bulb in the Evangelical shed, that one. Personally, if I were a book burner, I’d call for the event to be inclusive—something more along the lines of international burn a Bible, A Book of Mormon, a Torah, Dianetics and The Entire Twilight Series Day. It’s all just a bunch of hooey that leads certain gullibles to do very ugly things in the name of their God, which is always the Only God.

Flag waving or not, an extremist is an extremist is an extremist.

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