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Driver's Seat
Today’s not-so-wonderful world
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Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. Send Driver an email at
Many years ago Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong made a record “What a Wonderful World.” Its lyrics listed many pleasing things in life. It made you feel good. But lately I wonder if anyone with a functioning brain isn’t tempted to laugh, or at least give out with a wry smile, when that song is played.

That’s because today the world – or large chunks of it – is not at all wonderful. It’s something of a looney bin, a battlefield, a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. As I write this (on Sept. 19 or so), about 20 Muslim nations throughout the world are burning the American flag and attacking U.S. embassies and soldiers. The alleged reason? An obscure American parole violator produced a movie in which the prophet Mohammed was slandered. Neither the U.S. government nor any of its officials had a hand in the deal, but few of the offended Muslims seem to care about that. They’re good and sore, and therefore Obama and his citizens (i.e., the rest of us) must pay.

Americans’ reactions to the Muslim uproar will vary. One unworkable response would be to shut down all U.S. contacts with Muslim nations. Forbid all further immigration into the U.S.A. by Muslims. Close all our embassies in Muslim countries, and call our citizens home. Prohibit U.S. tourism to any foreign nation or city where anti-U.S. actions have occurred.

Such a policy is, of course, unlikely if not impossible. Americans and U.S. interests are scattered by the thousands throughout the world. Isolationism may have been a viable attitude before the start of World War II, but it is no longer realistic in a world where globalism is the coin of almost every realm.

I would imagine that for at least the next few months film-makers, playwrights, broadcasters, and journalists of all stripes will be reluctant to refer to Mohammed or the Muslim religion in any but the most complimentary terms. An even more inviting approach is for all U.S. media to pretend that the Muslim faith simply does not exist. Wherever possible, we could refuse to publish or broadcast any mention of Muslims. I’m not sure how that would end.

If I were a moderate non-violent Muslim (and I believe most Muslims fit that description), I’d be disturbed by the riots and flag-burnings that have taken place since that ill-begotten film was first shown. Continued Muslim violence – no matter how far away from the U.S.A. it might occur – will ultimately trigger a violent response from many Americans, who will simply vent their anger on the nearest innocent Muslim bystander they can lay their hands on. When that sort of retribution gets started it’s hard to stop.

As a longtime non-fan of organized religion (especially the extremist ilk), I’m astounded that many Muslims feel compelled to rise up with Molotov cocktails and other evil weapons so that the honor of Mohammed and his teachings can be defended against the insults of some obscure, minor-league moviemaker. Is the Muslim faith so shaky and insecure? I doubt if that’s the case for 99 percent of today’s Muslims. Unfortunately, the one percent fanatic base of any and all religions is often the driving force that can take it over the cliff of worldwide public opinion.

After the Al Qaeda attacks of 9-11-01, many Americans resolved to learn more about the Muslim religion in an attempt to figure out why some of its adherents hate the U.S.A., the West and all other religions. Has this attempt allowed us to better understand what makes Muslims tick? I’m not sure. Lately I’ve been reading accounts by religious experts who have concluded that Muslim doctrine may be only a small part of the puzzle. The rest of the current Mideast mayhem may be tied to poverty, joblessness among Muslim youths, material envy and sexual and political repression.

Right now, how should you and I feel about Muslims who kill Americans, shut down our embassies and burn our flags? Possible responses: (1) Get mad as hell about it; (2) postpone all plans for travel to any land west of Indonesia and east of London; (3) regretfully, expect more outrage and defiance from Mohammed’s militant followers. For years to come, they will be an influence to be dealt with. Even after they are defeated or otherwise overcome, there will be other blackguards and rapscallions to come on destiny’s stage and fulminate for their allotted fifteen minutes.

And what about Louis Armstrong and the optimistic lyrics of his song, above? I believe that people will be listening to that song, and believing in its ideas, long after today’s Mideast fires have died out and been forgotten.

Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. Send him an e-mail at
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