Friday, September 10, 2010

Playing With Fire

In San Bruno, California, a natural gas transmission line exploded last night, creating a 15-foot crater and sending a sea of flame through the neighborhood. 4 are confirmed dead, scores injured--some critically, over 53 homes severely damaged. The city is adjacent to San Francisco International Airport, and early reports assumed it was a plane crash.

Tomorrow marks the 9th anniversary of the tragic, actual, intentional, plane crashes that have left an indelible mark on our national psyche and the world political climate. In response the U.S. invaded and occupied two countries and is still seeking graceful exits. This year, a pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida has been planning to commemorate the anniversary by burning copies of the sacred book of Islam, the Qur'an (note: Quran, Kuran, Koran, are all interchangeable Latin spellings for an Arabic word meaning "recitation"). Ironically, but understandably, the current custodians of the above mentioned occupations are among the loudest critics of Pastor Jone's antics.

It seems lately he's reconsidering. It also appears he's trying to leverage a deal with New York Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to relocate the Islamic community center planned for lower Manhattan (the "Ground Zero Mosque"). Basically, "if you don't go back to the drawing board on your $100,000,000 building project, I'm going to burn a pile of books, and by the way I still think your religion is EVIL." So far Rauf has confirmed neither a meeting nor a deal with Jones.

Pastor Jones is either incredibly naive and delusional, or he's an incredibly shrewd publicity hound. Probably a bit of both. It's a testament to the ramped-up level of fear and divisiveness that he might actually pull off this audacious gamble. He's got little to lose personally, but Terry Jones has got to know he's playing with fire. Then again so are we all, as long as 24-inch gas transmission lines run through our neighborhoods...

There have been some interesting responses on Facebook. One that I spotted and shared, not without some heated debate among some of my friends, was "Buy a Qur'an Day." Now I don't really intend to buy a Qur'an, though I intend to read it.

This morning I learned of an even better idea: Donate to Pakistani flood relief in honor of Pastor Terry Jones.

As I shared that idea and that link, I had very mixed feelings. Doing so as a defiant or political act just seems to cheapen the act of charity and the lives and well-being of the recipients, like they are merely pawns in a cynical game of symbols. Just visiting the Medecins Sans Frontieres donation page I am struck with the awesome, utterly unfair privilege of my life. I am spared flood and fire and hunger, and have the incredible luxury to debate the fine points of symbolism. In honor of Rosh Hashanna, the New Year in the Jewish tradition, to which both Christians and Muslims owe their faith, all I have left to say is:

שנה טובה; Shana Tova; Good Year to You!


  1. If someone wasn't mindful of the purity of people's motives, we'd all be poorer.

    I replied over on the comment you left on my blog; thanx muchly for posting this, mixed feelings and all!

    Ketiva Ve-Chatima Tova!

  2. Honest and Very thought provoking.
    Thank you.