I saw this photo recently on Facebook along with an article about how the woman with the Bible and US flag was no different than an almost identical photo of a Middle Eastern woman with a Qur’an; both armed with weapons. I saw many of the same photos with the caption of “what’s the difference?” At first, I was tempted to agree: after all, fanaticism and intolerance are fanaticism and intolerance regardless of whatever ideology is using them; fanaticism and intolerance are transcendent, always going against freedom of choice and individuality.
Is it that simple, though? Violence, after all, can be either a force for or against freedom. Violence, like fanaticism and intolerance, is transcendent of belief, meaning any number of different and competing ideologies could use violence as a tool for contrary ends. When I thought about this concept of violence I began to also think about these women’s motivations for the violence they are symbolic of: US imperialism through capitalism and, since our offensive in the Global War on Terror, military action; and Islamic fanaticism.
Further, even fanaticism and intolerance may not be inherently bad. For someone could be fanatical about any number of virtues, such as love or protecting the innocent. And what if we were intolerant of liars, murderers, rapists and others who are intolerant or otherwise evil? So perhaps any kind of fanaticism or intolerance should not be wholly judged on its face, but taken in context of what is being fanaticized.