Other than it being Karen's birthday, today is fairly quiet for me. Thursdays are a bit odd, because I work from 11 - 8:30 on campus, so I end up doing my goofing off in the morning. This morning, I read Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Queen for two hours, then watched an episode of Gilmore Girls while walking on the treadmill. Done with that by 10, got dressed and went into campus, crashed my computer while trying to print out the paper assignment for today, asked the department secretary to run down and tell the students not to leave while I painstakingly recreated the assignment, printed, and copied it.
After that bit of excitement, class went smoothly, with us discussing the Danish cartoon situation. I had a hard time getting my set of liberal peace-loving students to admit that there might be situations where they too might be incited to riot. I asked them to come up with the most offensive words, phrases, scenarios they possibly could, and I'm afraid their imaginations were not quite up to the task. They're just too nice, most of them. I'm hoping my evening class will do better. :-)
We spent a fair bit of time discussing the underlying causes of such violence. Too many of my students assume that it's somehow inherent to the nature of Islam that its adherents turn to violence. Hooray for history, which offered me numerous examples of many other religious folks (fundamentalist and otherwise) (including, of course, the Christians) who have committed mass violence in the name of their religion. Our conversation ranged from the Indian sepoys to the Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka to the KKK to the Crusades, etc. and so on. Hopefully it helped, a little.
I think I managed to convince them that in almost every instance where offense erupts into violence, there are deeper forces at work, and most often the forces of poverty and oppression -- or at least, perceived oppression. In pretty much every example we came up with, the people who became violent felt that they were being oppressed, that their way of life was under serious attack. When you feel like all the powerful people are picking on you, it's surprisingly easy to lash out in response.
Heck, when I feel like Kevin's picking on me, I sometimes end up punching him in the arm. Not particularly hard, but still. Sometimes it makes me feel better. People are weird.