The unwritten code of the subway says that when a situation is fraught with danger, you never want to escalate it. You never want to challenge the angry-looking guy who’s staring at you from across the aisle and muttering under his breath. Is Armageddon erupting in his head? You don’t want to find out.
Today I’m upset with Pamela Geller because she has broken the code. She has an ad going up in 10 New York subway stations that reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” As a New Yorker who was present in Manhattan on 9/11, I can promise you, I don’t like jihadists any more than she does.
But is it really wise to bait them? Right now? After what has happened in Egypt, Libya and Lower Manhattan (more than once)?
I can accept the decision by federal Judge Paul Engelmayer that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was wrong to reject the ad’s language as demeaning. It’s protected speech, he said.
We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions we loathe and believe fraught with death, unless they pose such an imminent threat that an immediate check is required to save the country, wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Homes Jr. Who can say with certainty what the effect of Geller’s signs will be?
The issue isn’t the law. It’s common sense. Why bring this intractable psychodrama to the subway? Life is tough enough.
Pictured above: A commuter walks past an anti-Muslim poster in New York's Times Square subway station. (Sept. 24, 2012)