Fear in two flavors

Fear drives people in strange ways. Some try to placate the enemy, to grant whatever it seems to want. Others respond belligerently and indiscriminately, targeting not just those who threaten them but whole broadly-defined groups. We see two camps, each ridiculing the other, that have more in common than they admit.

Of course, I’m talking about the people who want to appease violent Muslims by curbing our freedoms, and the people who regard all Muslims as the enemy and want to curb our freedoms to get at them. Both ways, we lose. It’s harder work to keep thinking and recognize differences when someone’s threatening to kill innocent people in the name of their religion.

The people who want to censor speech that “offends religious sensibilities” are newcomers to the notion. I haven’t noticed their objecting to ridiculing Christian fundamentalists. It’s really offending the religious sensibilities of violent people that they object to. They think that if only they can censor speech that draws violent reactions, we’ll have peace, but giving in to violence never works. The goons will see they’ve won and aim for new goals. Other groups, a little less inclined toward violence, will see that it works and go over the edge.

The people who want to shut down mosques and ban peaceful religious practices also encourage violence by making Muslims feel they can’t protect their rights under the legal system. Both sides want to destroy liberty in the name of safety. It’s just the details that are different.

Terrorists, by definition, play upon fear. They can make use of any kind of overreaction. Broad-brush belligerence can win them more followers; appeasement encourages the followers they have. They want to keep people from thinking straight, because then people might notice how fragile the terrorists really are and how helpless they’d be in a world that values tolerance and freedom.

I may lose my Internet connection for the weekend, so I might not see comments for a few days.

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