Friday, February 10, 2006

Great quote about the flag controversy

"And where are the Danish flags all coming from? I couldn't get my hands on one if I was in a scavenger hunt and the prize was a Ferrari, but suddenly, they're all over the Middle East..." -- -Seth Greenland
[Sorry, I don't know who Seth Greenland is, but you've got to wonder about that last name, given that Greenland belongs to Denmark...]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Burning the Danish flag

Odd times
I never thought I would live to see the day when the Danish flag would be burned by angry mobs. I grew up in Denmark, and can speak from personal experience when I say that the Danes are about as offensive a people as, oh, I don't know, the Swiss? The Finns? Icelanders, Canadians?

Denmark is a lovely, ancient nation, famous for its cheese, fish, open-faced sandwiches, intelligent drinking laws, great beer, Tivoli Gardens and Hans Christian Andersen. The country looks a bit like Prince Edward Island: green, flat and deeply charming and bucolic in a The Cotswolds sort of way. What could these inoffensive, gentle and socialist-to-the-core people have done to deserve the wrath of vast crowds of angry Muslims across the eastern world? What could engender nations to rise up in cold fury to storm the consulates and embassies of Denmark and, if a Danish consulate is not available, the Norwegians?

Well, bad art. While Denmark has a rich and flourishing artistic community and tradition, they are not, truth be told now, famous for producing great cartoonists. The Danes do have a sense of humour, sort of like the Swiss in that - you have to be there to get it - way, but newspaper cartoons lampooning politicians, or making social commentary, has never been their forte. Yet that is exactly what has led poor, old Dannebrog to being torched - for the first time it its long and honourable history, as far as I know.

The slightly befuddled Danish editors and politicians who are suddenly finding themselves in the international limelight, being interviewed by the likes of CNN, stare into the glare of publicity like owls caught out in an open field on a sunny day, and mumble things about freedom of the press and the right to free speech - both essentially American precepts - but you have to say something, don't you? And they clearly don't get it. Insulting people who already have lots of grievances with the rest of the world is like poking a hornet's nest with a stick. And don't give me that business about the people "over there" relaxing a little. There are large parts of the Muslim world that don't feel much like relaxing these days - it's been a tough seventy or eighty years for them, largely because of European and American political and military tinkering - and having a nation of cheese rollers and herring picklers poke fun at the Prophet - and, in fact, drawing a picture of him at all - is not helping matters; hence the burning flag and the storming of consulates.

Still, what odd times we live in. Seeing the Danish flag being burned and stomped on is like, well, seeing the Canadian flag on the shoulders of combat troops in Afghanistan.... no, wait, bad example...
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