The facts are relatively straightforward:
In Afghanistan, American soldiers inadvertently burned several copies of the Koran. Apparently, it was an honest mistake; however–predictably–it infuriated many Muslims. Some of them have responded violently, and a recent attack that killed two Americans may have been prompted by the incident.
President Obama apologized for the burning of the Muslim’s holy book.
Newt Gingrich and other Republicans criticized the President for apologizing even before the recent attacks. Locally, Gary Varvel’s cartoon on the matter showed caskets covered with American flags and the President off to the side apologizing–defiantly suggesting, with the attitude of five-year-olds everywhere, that “they’re worse than we are, so we shouldn’t apologize.”
Let’s (patiently–in the manner of parents of small children everywhere) use this as a “teachable” moment. A couple of lessons come to mind.
First, let’s try putting ourselves in the other guy’s shoes. How do you think the bible-thumpers in the United States would have reacted if bibles had been accidentally burned by Muslims? With reason and understanding, acknowledging that “accidents happen”? Of course not.
Now, let’s talk about appropriate/inappropriate behavior. Violence is never appropriate; it is a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline. It doesn’t matter “who started it”–fighting doesn’t solve anything. It makes things worse, and it doesn’t persuade anyone of anything. So the Afghans’ response was wrong.
Lesson three is important. Adults apologize for their mistakes. Those apologies are not a sign of weakness; quite the contrary. As we constantly admonish our children, admitting when you’ve done something wrong–accidentally or purposely–and saying “I’m sorry” when that is appropriate are signs of honesty and maturity.
And as I used to tell my children, you apologize when you’ve done something wrong even if the other guy is a jerk who doesn’t accept that apology. Because it’s the right thing to do.
It’s what separates the children from the adults.