News this morning from the Chronically Horrid that unrepentant pseudo-scientific racist Jared Taylor is returning to Halifax, this time to debate Peter March, the Saint Mary’s University professor who stirred up controversy by posting the Mohammad cartoons on his office door. While I don’t support March’s decision on that score, I certainly give him props for facing the issues raised by Taylor head-on.
I was somewhat dismayed by the speed at which SMU disavowed any connection with this event. Just as human beings have to stand by their convictions, so too should our institutions of higher learning. As an alumnus of the university (as well as of Dal, who cancelled the original debate, leading to the ensuing fiasco), I am feeling a little abandoned. Surely backing the person opposing the vile racist cannot carry any political liability. If anything, it might add to the prestige of the university to take Taylor on while its cross-town rival chickened out. I am forced to reflect on the establishment of their school for business ethics and wonder how much they really are willing to live what they teach.
On the dark side, Taylor seems positively consumed with glee to be coming back. Why? He’s obviously hoping for a repeat performance of the mob scene to further bolster his credibility with the neo-nazi dogmatists. They showed a clip from the last event this morning, and I couldn’t help but notice (although I didn’t at the time) that the bastard is smiling as he’s being driven from the room. The mob mentality serves his purpose, and I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about causing a scene this time to let him speak – it’s obvious he actually has nothing of value to say, and it’s better for free thinking, progressive individuals everywhere if we let him demonstrate that very fact, let him indict his whole cowardly movement from his own lips. He says he has things to say, let’s let him try to prove it.
While Dr. Peter March isn’t necessarily a role model either, in retrospect, his comments about this upcoming debate has made me rethink my opinion of him. While perhaps rather clumsy, he did raise some valid questions about the portrayal of Islam in the media and it’s perception by the public, whether he actually intended to or not. I’ve seen the Mohammad cartoons, and, quite frankly, they’re not funny, and are racist on the face of them without the added meaning of the depiction of the Prophet. Was March trying to be ironic? Was he posting the cartoons to preserve freedom of speech? Was it a heavy-handed thump on the head to Muslims? We may never know, although I now suspect his motives may have been more positive than they were portrayed.
In any case, if he’s willing to argue the point rationally, to remind Taylor (and us) that we are all human beings, to point out that ‘race’ is a social construct with no real validity, I say, let’s back him up. Clear the stage, and let the two go at it with all their philosophical might, and I’m quite confident that regardless of who rationality’s champion is, the side of truth, of tolerance, and of humanity will win the day.
*Hamlet, II, ii.