On Feb 8, 2006, the Cobourg Daily Star published an editorial entitled, “How free should we be?" The answer: As free as the imagination can be.
The Cobourg Daily Star is free to publish editorials full of biased bluster, bigoted banalities, distorted details and to do so in a prose style resulting from an over-active bland-gland. The editorial ends with the tepid assertion: “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press comes with a certain amount of responsibility.”
It is a pity that the readers of this newspaper receive only the mediocre advocacy of a “certain amount” of responsibility. Readers should receive much more from those who are paid good money as practitioners of those freedoms.
Those freedoms, won by the blood and pain of countless practitioners over the centuries, come with an enormous amount of responsibility. The primary responsibility is the unwavering defence of those freedoms, the proselytizing of those freedoms and the expansion of those freedoms as far as the imagination soars.
I am a blasphemer. Some of my blasphemies have appeared in Canada’s literary journals. I am also a heathen, an infidel, a fornicator and an apostate. I am a chronic advocate of a broad assortment of apostasy; it rhymes so harmoniously with ecstasy.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth was a Victim of blasphemy laws. He asserted He was the Son of God. Perhaps if He were more inclusive, politically correct and sensitive to the hair-trigger feelings of the religious bigots of the day, asserting instead that “We are all the Children of God.” But He didn’t, so the holy leadership of the day in collaboration with the local agents of the dictatorship, hung Him out to dry.
For centuries the clerical crusaders of Christendumb burned assorted Joans of the Arts, Galileos, Martin Luthers, and generally tormented and tortured countless unknowns, thereby impeding the advancement of humankind. I am eternally grateful for the Voltaires, de Sades, Byrons, Irving Laytons, etc. who defied the sanctimonious totalitarians of God-on-Earth. Poetry is Poetency!
Freedom of speech is the seedbed of human development. It nurtured the Enlightment, the extension of life expectancy, the diminishment of infant mortality, the expansion of literacy, the liberation of women, the liberation of sexual enjoyment, the liberation of Imagination.
Now that I have excoriated Bible-thumpers, it is the turn of the Ku Klux Koran. It is always time to mock men wearing silly hats, whether rabbis, bishops, mullahs, or voodoo shamans. They are agents of theological totalitarianism, and as such, anti-imagination.
The West is now under siege by the Mullah Masters of Massacre, proselytizing the obliteration of women’s sexuality (God willing), the beheading of infidels (God willing), the stoning of adulterers (God willing), the amputation of thieves (God willing), the execution of cartoonists (God willing), and the eternal confinement of the joy of imagination (God willing).
It is not enough for the West to defend itself. Victory in any team sport is not achieved by defensive actions or refusal to cross the 50 yard line. It is not enough to defend freedom of speech; it needs to go on the offensive, it needs to be FREE. It needs strong advocates. It needs to be victorious. It needs to prevail against the veil of ignorance and arrogance.
It means seeking out and supporting Muslim dissidents and “apostates”. In Canada it means supporting Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam, who lives behind bullet-proof windows in her Toronto apartment.
It means supporting Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament, who collaborated with Dutch iconoclast, Theo van Gogh, to produce the film, Submission, about the enslavement of women by Muham-madism. She fled to the Netherlands to avoid an arranged marriage. At age five she had undergone genital mutilation, still practiced in many Muslim communities.
More apostates can be found at www.apostatesofislam.com.
And my faith? Irving Layton wrote: “Whatever else, poetry is freedom.” And this is the icon I celebrate:
. . . . . . . . F
. . . . . . . . R
. . . . . L I B E R T Y
. . . . . . . . E
. . . . . . . . D
. . . . . . . . O
. . . . . . . . M
-- Wally Keeler