ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! LarryNocella.com

8Jul/10Off

Let’s Celebrate “Offend Yourself Day!”

As an author of fiction, I often hear there are only a handful of stories in the whole wide world and all tales are based on those few. I like to assess that concept with, "Duh" before raising the stakes and noting there is really only ONE story and all stories are a variation of it.

That one story is this: Stuff happens.

I award myself points for smart-assery, but demerits for inaccuracy because I use over-simplification myself. You can really buzz through the news that way. Scanning today's headlines, I've got "Political Sex Scandal" here, "Natural World Dying" here, and "Right-Wing Media Personality Promotes New Book By Scapegoating the Powerless." Nope, nothing new today, but, what's this?

Oh, never mind. It's just the classic: "Religious People Offended Again."

That's the mental bin into which I tossed the news that some Muslims were offended by cartoons of Muhammad. Most items in the RPOA category provide light entertainment (as in the allegedly gay Teletubby) but this time, some Muslims were so offended they rioted, burning and killing. We in the western world are appalled at such barbarity. Everyone knows a civilized culture only riots, burns and kills when their sports team wins a championship.

So because of the violence, this story popped free of my mental "yawn and ignore" file and begged further analysis. A stand needed to be… um, stood. Unfortunately, I was vaguely unimpressed with the knee-jerky reactions exemplified by the sort-of movement, "Draw Muhammad Day."

Some background: after receiving a threat, Comedy Central partially censored a South Park episode because it featured parodies of Muhammad. Those who care about freedom of expression were offended, first at those who made the threats and second at those who seemed to cave into them. In protest, lots of people agreed to republish toons of Muhammad and/or draw their own. "Draw Muhammad Day" was one result.

So, while I agree it's silly to get offended at a cartoon, especially when doing so on behalf of a being you believe is all-powerful (I've written about that before) I must say I'm unimpressed with "Draw Muhammad Day" and the other efforts to reproduce the Danish cartoons that began this anti-cartoon jihad and the anti-anti-cartoon crusade.

Why so jaded? Because offending extreme Muslims proves nothing. It's just too easy. In the excellent documentary Afghan Star (about Afghanistan's answer to American Idol) one female finalist removed her headscarf and took two steps. This was called a "dance" and it sent the men into a murderous rage. They talked (seriously) of wanting this woman executed. For as close as those few simple moves were to a dance, Afghan women better be careful not to trip on any pebbles lest they be branded bootylicious. (Would that be burqalicious?)

All this talk of new generals and new strategies for Afghanistan. Who needs them? Project a music video of any modern female pop star on an Afghan mountain in the night and the Talibanis will spontaneously combust. The Graveyard of Empires has endured countless bombs but is no match for the merciless vibrations of a female's jiggly buttocks.

So now that I've solved the Afghan war, what I want to see next, from the people determined to prove their support for freedom of expression, who think they are so much better than extremist Muslims, is this: I want them to draw and/or publish something that offends THEM. If you're so pro-free-expression, let's see you express something that offends YOU. No more offending someone thousands of miles away, who surely won't riot and burn your home or kill you. You want to really promote free expression? Offend yourself.

Can anyone really do it? I have my doubts. I'm pretty sure I can't. I tried (see above) but it just seems lame. I'm offended by the mentality, but somehow not upset by it in cartoon form. Plus, I couldn't help making the sarcasm obvious. I don't want to go further, because well, I'd be offended. Can one offend oneself?

An effort was attempted in a June 2006 Harper's article (Drawing Blood by Art Spiegelman.) Responding to the Muhammad-cartoon issue, some Jewish artists drew cartoons that allegedly offended themselves. I'm still skeptical. Seemed to me they were simply mocking concepts that they had no respect for, like I did above.

Regardless, the Harper's article was a noble effort and yes, there is a difference between being offended and calling for the execution of the offender. Even so, before getting righteous, I think we all need to pass this test. If nothing else, it will be a lesson in humility. So have at it, my fellow freedom fighters. Nice job getting in the face of oppressive jerks, but can you take the heat as well? Are you really pro-freedom? Can you offend yourself?

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Larry Nocella writes The Semi-True Adventures of Lar blog at LarryNocella.com. He's the author of the novel Where Did This Come From? The world's first CarbonFree(R) novel according to Carbonfund.org. The book is available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle eBook. It is also available for other eBook readers.