I wouldn’t, but he would

A common reaction among Christians of a certain stripe, when confronted with some public display of disrespect toward the symbols of their faith –a giant chocolate Jesus, a Playboy cover allusion to the virgin Mary– is to say something along the lines of ‘how brave of them to do it to Jesus or Mary. Maybe next time they should do it to Muhammad’.

The implication, on the surface, appears to be that Christians are a tolerant lot, and therefore an easy target for cowards. But I think there’s something else going on: maybe a form of negative projective identification. I am tolerant, but he, the mad Muslim is not. I turn the other cheek; he chops your head off, blows up your family. If it wasn’t for me and those like me, you wouldn’t be able to get away with what you do. Aren’t you lucky that you have people like me to make fun of? Because if you didn’t….

So the ideal forms of punishment -corporal and capital- for offending religious norms are withheld, on account of the goodness of the Christian. But the more you think about the hypothetical scenario offered, the more it becomes clear that what you are told ‘the Muslim’ would do to you is in fact what the Christian would do to you if he could. It just so happens that he can’t. Lucky you.

A comparable situation is when an older teacher harks back to the days of corporal punishment and says to an errant student something like ‘if this were 30 years ago I’d knock lumps out of you’: the desire to knock lumps out of the student is barely concealed.

What put me in mind of all this was an observation made by Toby Harnden on his blog yesterday about the journalist who threw the shoe at George Bush.

But ask yourself this question: How would al-Zaidi have fared if he’d hurled a pair of shoes at Saddam?

The same observation was repeated today by the Irish Independent’s mind-at-work, Ian O’Doherty:

Still, it would have been interesting to see how Saddam Hussein would have reacted if someone had fecked their shoes at him.

Jail would have been the least of their worries; but hey, let’s not focus on that, right?

What emerges in both instances is the implication that the journalist –who by his brother’s account is presently too badly beaten to appear in court– should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t subjected to more vicious punishment for throwing shoes at the man responsible for the destruction of his country through invasion, high altitude bombing and military occupation. In both instances, the writers draft Saddam Hussein in to deliver the ideal punishment for the act of supreme ingratitude. And not only is the journalist to be condemned for what he did, but Bush is, in Harnden’s case, to be revered for his supple reflexes.


3 Responses to “I wouldn’t, but he would”

  1. 1 coc December 18, 2008 at 10:37 am

    … Irish Independent’s mind-at-work, Ian O’Doherty …

  2. 2 fústar December 19, 2008 at 9:54 am

    This all vaguely (and I mean – vaguely) reminds me of Alan Shearer’s assessment of England’s continual failure to win (or get anywhere near winning) a major football tournament. “Maybe”, said Alan (as stomachs heaved forth their contents worldwide), “We’re just too fair and honest”.

    But seriously. I love the underlying tension felt by angry Christians. They’ve an ambivalent relationship with this whole love and turn the other cheek business. It’s like a bothersome piece of restrictive legislation that it would be nice to do away with – opening the door to some righteous ass-whupping.

  3. 3 Hugh Green December 19, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Good old Big Al. A fairer and more honest footballer you would not meet in a day’s walking. Like the time he was falsely accused of trying to kick poor Neil Lennon’s ginger nut off.

    Of course, if it had been Mido he’d probably have put a massive bomb up Neil Lennon’s hole.

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