One Woman's World
A POPE HAS RIGHTS, TOO
by Elizabeth Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
CARTERSVILLE, Ga -- I would gladly go to Rome, stand out in front of the Vatican, and defend with a bouquet of long-stemmed, thorny wild roses the Pope's right to express his opinion on Islam and the Koran.
It's called free speech and it is vanishing from the halls and the haunts of even "civilized" nations. With its going goes any hint that you and I will ever be able to know if any public figure is saying what they really think and feel.
It matters not if what Pope Benedict said is true. It was his opinion of what he believed to be true. And he has not only a right to that opinion, he also has the right to express it.
There's the Pope's truth, your truth, my truth, and everybody else's truth. And then there is the beloved Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran urging us to "Say not that you have found the truth, but say instead 'I have found a truth'."
The problem with all this "truth" business is that words and books full of words, no matter how cleverly crafted, have no power except the power we give them.
The word "home" may conjure up your images of apple pie and the smell of Mama's home-made turkey dressing. It may for me, however, call up the sound of an angry father's voice and the image of his waiting leather belt that hung by the back door.
And the sweet strains of "God Bless America" may bring a lump to your throat at a Fourth of July picnic, but don't expect a passing member of al-Qaida to pause beside you, kneel, get up, hug you and go whistling happily on his way.
As for the recent flap over the Pope daring to express his opinion on bits of the Koran and the practice of Islam, read the Koran for yourself and decide for yourself if you agree or disagree. That's called "freedom of expression" and I'll stand out in front of my house and defend it with a copy of the United States Bill of Rights, and a wet rag mop.
I personally find the Koran sprinkled with some incredibly poetic prose, some ridiculous assumptions, many downright evil calls to do violence to disbelievers, and the absolute asinine oppression of women, slaves and everything else that draws a breath - except Muslim males.
It was written by many men, to men, about men, and for men.
It is the opinion of a few, believed by the many. I will defend their right to believe what they please as long as they do not interfere in your rights, my rights, the Pope's rights, or the rights of my handyman to speak his mind without fear of being shot.
And I would ask of you as you read the Koran to remember that the opposite face of love is hate, and that if our gods call us to hate and destroy those unlike ourselves, well - let's go then, together, and hunt for some different, kinder gods.
In truth, there really is no "those unlike ourselves." There is no "Them." There is only "Us." And it is only the fear-based need to protect the familiar and fear the different that makes of a neutral, loving universal God a personal, invented monster that serves personal, invented religious fanaticism. Fear makes loud, obnoxious spiritual infants of those too afraid to grow up spiritually and see a world full of others very much like themselves. "Others" who want to live and love and be left alone to pursue their dreams, birth their babies, and turn their faces in gratitude to Something greater and grander than all of us.
To charge forth and burn buildings, and to take lives because somebody dared say what they think, these are the actions of primitive and barbaric children who are incapable of internalizing a "God is Love" concept.
They are, however, our brothers and our sisters. However misguided, however fearful of all that is different from themselves, they are part of a world family that has forgotten its one God, one family origins; forgotten that opinions are just words without divine essence - and neither words or opinions or books have any real power except the power we choose to give them.
You go, Pope Benedict. Call if you need me. Elizabeth Andrews is a former businesswoman and newspaper columnist now living in Cartersville, Ga., where she concentrates on writing poetry. She can be contacted at P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.