It is an abomination to suggest that one honors the memory of those killed on September 11, 2001 by burning holy books in the street. Religious fanaticism is no way to mourn the victims of religious fanaticism.
We Americans do not believe in outlawing or preventing free expression, no matter how foolish, craven, hateful, or offensive that speech might be. We suppress expression that sexually exploits children or directly promotes physical violence, but we go no farther.
We do not believe that expression should be suppressed just because someone offended by the expression might commit retaliatory violence. To accept potential retaliation as a rationale for suppression would gut the most deeply held of our American civic values.
So, we live with the bad apples and what crawls out of them. It’s the price of democracy. They embarrass us. They anger us. They worry us. But they don’t represent us.
It’s unfortunate that in our interconnected world the bad apples, however unrepresentative they may be, can easily command global attention. Anyone can tweet, blog, or set up a website on the internet. And traditional media outlets are too often attracted to the salacious or extreme.
As I write this, it appears that the bookburners are having second thoughts. Perhaps they’ve spent a few hours reading their Bibles or the Constitution. Or perhaps they think that they can better milk their 15 minutes of disruptive fame by stretching things out past the 11th. It doesn’t really matter. They don’t speak for the rest of us. Very few of us are like them. And everybody knows that.