The time has come to resurrect a word that has gone out of fashion. It’s time to blow off the dust, shine the word up a bit and restore it to a place of prominence in our modern vocabulary, because these days we have an increasing need for it.
The word — a good, strong, Anglo-Saxon word — is “lout”, defined by dictionary.com as: “noun: awkward, stupid person; clumsy, ill-mannered boor; oaf.”
Used in a sentence, it works like this:
“Anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller, the woman who recently sponsored an anti-Islamic cartoon contest in Texas as a ‘free-speech’ exercise, is a lout.”
Those who follow and support Geller, including those who showed up armed with AR-15s outside a mosque in Phoenix earlier this month to disrupt Friday prayers**, are also louts. Their behavior is loutish, and in fact defines the word “loutish.” They are, to borrow the definition, awkward, stupid persons and clumsy, ill-mannered boors. Also, oafs and a few other terms that I am not at liberty to use.
In her latest demonstration of loutishness, Geller this week announced that she and her followers have erected some 100 billboards around St. Louis, each of them containing a cartoon image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. As Geller knows, Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad as an insult to that revered figure and blasphemy.
So why do it? Based on statements by Geller and her fellow louts, the reason that they are gratuitously insulting a major religious faith is to prove that they have the right to gratuitously insult a major religious faith. That’s their whole purpose.
And who benefits from all this? I guess that Geller and her crew of loutish, ignorant misfits benefit, by drawing other loutish, ignorant misfits to their side through the publicity. They will benefit even more if they succeed in provoking a violent reaction, and you can tell that they almost revel in the possibility. As Geller put it in announcing her billboard campaign, “Violence that arises over the cartoons is solely the responsibility of the Islamic jihadists who perpetrate it.”
Like hell it is. Yes, any violence would primarily be the responsibility of those who perpetrate it, but Geller and her pals would certainly share in that burden.
Those who benefit from the billboard campaign would also include the extremists on the other side, who have now been granted flamboyant confirmation that the West in general and Americans in particular are hostile to Islam. In that regard, Geller and those whom she regards as her enemies are in fact the closest of allies, united in a common cause of provoking the violent confrontation that they both seek.
It’s also interesting to see Geller and her fans pose as brave heroes and potential martyrs for the cause of “free speech”. It doesn’t take courage to target an unpopular religious minority in a country that is overwhelmingly Christian, a country in which anti-Islamic bigotry seems to be finding more and more support. That’s the act of a schoolyard bully, picking on the weak, unpopular kid as a way to boost his own standing.
I wonder: What reaction would it draw if someone put up 100 billboards around a major American city proclaiming that the Virgin Mary hadn’t been a virgin at all, but just another unwed, promiscuous teen mother?
To cite an even more inflammatory example, what if someone else wanted to post 100 billboards accusing the Jews of being Christ-killers? Certainly, they would have the legal right to make such a statement under the First Amendment. But I very much doubt that a billboard company would rent them the space. Nor should they.
And no, I am not publishing or even linking to a photo of the rather pathetic billboards. You can find them elsewhere if that’s important to you. My decision is made not out of fear of reprisal, but out of a concept that is known as decency. Decency requires that you do not insult another person’s deeply held religious faith for no reason other than to prove that you can do so.
Decent people don’t do that. Louts do that.
And if you believe that hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims around the world are obligated to speak out against those relative few who commit extremist acts, then it is also important for we Americans to speak out against those relative few in our own ranks who violate our own standards of tolerance and respect for others.
That’s where our word of the day can come in handy.
** As organizers of that Phoenix protest put it on their Facebook page, and I quote: “People are also encouraged to utilize there second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.”