Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree,
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you? He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself part of the boundless,
by easing himself into it just where it touches him.
I like the little duck.
He doesn’t know much.
But he has religion.
-Donald Babcock, The Lyfe Poems of Donald Babcock
An article in yesterday’s Star Tribune stirred my pot a bit and got me thinking about the cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed and the ensuing uproar, hand-wringing, and torching of embassies. In the article, the owner of my favorite Middle Eastern deli, Holy Land in NE Minneapolis, takes the issue to heart in much the same way much of the Muslim world did and posted the following in his establishment:
Dear Customer. The Denmark newspaper published a cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed. The Denmark government refuses to apologize to the Muslim world for this; therefore Holy Land management decided to join the other business leaders in the world to boycott all products made in Denmark.
In the article, Holy Land owner, Majdi Wadi claims that if some of his patrons (a diverse bunch to be sure) have an issue with his boycott, they should come talk with him. He even says if they can convince him to change his mind he will take the signs down.
I respect freedom of speech,” he continued, “but I think there must be limits. I think there should be an international law to protect beliefs. It is wrong not to respect Jesus. It is wrong not to respect Buddha. And it is wrong to not respect the Prophet Mohammed.
Now I would love to go and speak with Mr. Wadi, but being Minnesotan, there is a pretty good chance that confrontation will never occur. So instead, in typical passive-aggressive (aka “Minnesota nice”) fashion, I will lay out why Holy Land should reverse its policy and why I am now boycotting one of my favorite markets.
- The boycott is asking for something from the wrong people. It wrongly states that “The Denmark newspaper” published these cartoons. It was the Jyllands-Posten. The Danish government is not, nor should it be, under any obligation to apologize for the free speech, its citizens make use of.
- The boycott targets the wrong people. Don’t buy the newspapers and magazines that printed the degrading cartoons. What do the people who make chocolate and cheese have to do with these cartoons other than living in the same country? Only 150,000 (of more than 5 million) Danish people even see the Jyllands-Posten newspaper each day.
- When people start to decide what the limits of free speech are, then we are all in trouble. You cannot protect beliefs with laws against speaking out against such beliefs. What if my belief is that Quentin Tarantino was a prophet? Does that make claims that some of his movies suck ass, blasphemy?
- Living in America means that you may, if you choose, practice freedom of speech and must also be tolerant of others rights to do so. Presumably that is one of the main draws, bringing countless hopeful immigrants to this country each year from places, like Vietnam, China, and yes, even the Middle East – places where it isn’t always acceptable to speak your mind.
I have been thinking lately about going to church. Not that I am going to do it mind you, but I have been thinking about it. When I think about it though I get angry. I really do not like religions and their presumptions that they alone have it right. I would really enjoy to go somewhere once a week and talk about issues, philosophy, the world, whatever, with people of different faiths that also recognize that no one set of beliefs is infallible. We could look to the Quran, the Bible, and the Vedas among many other texts for insight and information. It could be something along the lines of Bahaiism (which I just discovered while researching this idea) but different in key ways also. I think it would truly be enlightening and would think that it would have broad appeal. But that is my optimistic self talking. I fear there are far too many people who just go to the church that their parents went to without questioning why or caring what it means.