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Two modest proposals

A modest proposal

The United States has done a pretty good job of exemplifying freedom and democracy around the world, providing, in large measure, the impetus for the overturn of repressive governments we now collectively call the Arab Spring.

People around the globe might now be more familiar with the concept of one person, one vote, but we have apparently failed fairly colossally in imparting some of the other things that go along with democratic elections to those who aspire to our freedoms.

Free speech comes to mind.

Muslims would likely be far less angry about editorial cartoons and news magazine covers and amateur films posted on the Internet if they had a better understanding and familiarity with our ability to speak our minds.

In the lead up to the tragedy at our embassy in Benghazi last week, Libyan officials were asking their American counterparts how this film was allowed to be made, and why the perpetrators weren't in jail.

There is very little understanding on the part of Libyans and others that our government doesn't do that sort of thing.

Bridging that gap is going to be a challenge, especially when the democratically elected leaders of these new governments get control of the press and slap dissidents in jail almost as part of their swearing-in ceremony.

Closer to home, Jim Hope is our editorial cartoonist for the Culpeper Times.

On Monday, he drew what we felt to be an innocuous cartoon that nevertheless made mention of Islam and the troubles in the Middle East.
Out of an abundance of caution, we spiked it and asked him to draw another, taking cover behind the idea that, well, we are a local newspaper, dealing with local issues, and we aren't compelled to comment on things happening halfway around the world.

Then we went to the gym to see if we could rebuild a spine.

For all our free speech, Americans and Europeans and other developed cultures are now grown reluctant to criticize a belief system that is oh so worthy of a critical eye.

Perhaps we could kill a couple of birds with one stone. We could send the members of Westboro Baptist Church – the wackos best known for picketing funerals of American soldiers – over to Tunisia or Libya or Egypt and let them serve as our ambassadors of free speech.

There is truly nothing more exemplary of what free speech means than Westboro's ability to spew its venom.

The Arabs would get a lesson in democracy that they would not soon forget.

And us? Being shed of these nuts is something we'd not soon forget, either.

Another modest proposal

Tareq Salahi kicked off his gubernatorial campaign on Sunday,. We wondered, here in the newsroom, if Warren County required a permit for such an event, and if Mr. Salahi had secured one.

Not that it mattered; it hardly qualified as an event.

There were only about enough attendees to stage a good touch football game, and the sides were easily determined – about half the people there were staffing the event, and about half were attending out of some sort of interest.

We were about to write “curiosity,” but that might have tipped our hand about how we really feel about Mr. Salahi's latest effort.

The whole party was filmed for a documentary that Mr. Salahi apparently wants to sell to someone for airing after the election is over.

Our guess is that the movie will be much shorter than he anticipates, and that he can begin to market it long before November 2013 rolls around.
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