In Argentina, in the time of the right-wing generals, many Argentinians were made to “disappear” – that is, they were killed for their political views, often in such grisly ways as being thrown out of airplanes. They became known, in Spanish, as “los desaparecidos” (“the disappeared ones”). But there is another set of “los desaparecidos” — people who all over the advanced Western world, that world which prides itself on its protection of free speech — have been threatened with death because of what they dared to say or write about Islam, and have been forced to go into permanent hiding, changing their identities, “disappearing themselves.” It’s a sign of the times that there is no general outrage, no marches in support of those threatened with death for speaking their mind about Islam, no political leaders in the United States reminding us in public of this campaign of Muslim intimidation, that has destroyed the lives of those who were brave enough to speak out about Islam who had to “disappear themselves.”
Do you remember Molly Norris? She was the Seattle cartoonist who suggested, as a response to the death threats against Lars Vilks and Kurt Westergaard, two cartoonists who had dared to depict Muhammad, that there be an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” as a lighthearted sign of solidarity with the threatened cartoonists. For her pains, she received death threats from Muslims, and she was advised by the FBI to change her identity, as reported by Mark Fefer in the Seattle Weekly:
The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, “going ghost”: moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program–except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab.
So Molly Norris no longer exists. But whatever name she now goes by, she can’t work as a cartoonist, because a cartoonist’s style is as recognizable as her handwriting – and in any case, what previous work, signed “Molly Norris,” could she submit in applying for jobs? Relatives and friends must worry about meeting with her, or communicating by phone or email, for they have to assume that Muslims determined to find Molly Norris will know who her relatives and friends were before she changed her identity and could conceivably be watching them, hoping they will lead to Molly Norris. She is “in effect, being put into a witness-protection program – except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab.”
How does she survive? With what handful of people does she allow herself to associate? What kind of life must Molly Norris be living if the government provides no support?
But most disturbing of all is how Molly Norris has been essentially abandoned to her fate, and has had both to “disappear herself” and to endure having “disappeared” from the American public’s consciousness. Which brings me to my main point.
Six Democrats and a dozen Republicans initially entered the political lists this primary season. Two Democrats remain; the dozen Republicans have been whittled down to five (of which three are viable). The candidates have raised all sorts of issues, about the economy, Obamacare, immigration, free trade, global warming, campaign finance laws, making America great, safe, whole (choose one) again. Islam has been mentioned, but always in the abstract. No one has mentioned the tragic situation of Molly Norris.
Imagine that if even one of the candidates were to talk about her, what good he might do. Let’s imagine what he might say:
We no longer have free speech in this country, because those who are most outspoken about Islam have been threatened with death. Many have been scared into silence, and others have had to change their lives.
Take the case of Molly Norris, forced to go into permanent hiding, and to change her identity, because she dared to suggest an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” in solidarity with cartoonists in Europe threatened with death for having drawn what we now call MoToons. When she was threatened herself, the most that the American government would do for her was to suggest that she go into hiding. The government did not offer to support her, or to pay for her security: it was “a witness-protection program without the government picking up the tab.”
Now imagine that same candidate brings up the story of Molly Norris at every gathering, forcing the media to report to the broad public what he has to say about her monstrous situation, imprints her story on the public consciousness, causes people to bethink themselves about how our officials have behaved in their insensate determination not to fight but to give in to Muslim threats.
What if that candidate were to say: “If I am elected President, I will promptly provide round-the-clock protection for Molly Norris. And I will invite Molly Norris to the White House to discuss with me and others in my administration the freedom of speech. It will be up to her to decide if she wants to be photographed. Whether she does or not, I think the American public will be gripped by her own story – and we can then start an open and sober discussion, that has long been needed, about Islam, blasphemy laws, and respect for the American Constitution.”
This would not be an abstract denunciation of Islam but, rather, a concrete example of the meaning of Islam, bringing home to the American public the story of one American girl, Molly Norris, who in exercising her first-amendment rights to free speech earned a death threat from Muslims who have no interest in, or sympathy for, “free speech,” and who asserted, as they saw it, their superior rights to enforce, even through assassination and even in our country, Islamic laws against blasphemy.
And Molly Norris, who has been a “desaparecido” for more than five years, will triumphantly be allowed to “reappear” as herself. That will be good for her, good for the candidate who embraces her Case and her Cause, and good for our country that needs to be reminded – at a time of great confusion — of what the First Amendment was meant, whatever it cost, to protect.