Just two weeks ago, September 11th once again revealed to the world the barbarous measures that freedom’s adversaries employ without trepidation. Out of utmost respect for Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods (and each of their grieving families), we must always recognize and remain cognizant of our sacred responsibility to refrain from playing political football following tragedy. To earn cheap political points at the expense of an American death is both vile and thankfully rejected by the American people. Likewise, we must not hide from our duty to analyze critical mistakes made by those who lead our government, and though tremendously painful, we must also embrace our opportunity to learn from the worst of tragedies. Such pillars of our civic responsibility can ultimately propel our underlying goal of protecting American lives. In the opinion of the author, such opportunities for patriotic analysis and learnability from the recent attacks yield the following lessons:

The Obama Administration’s erroneous rhetorical likening of our rights with our enemies’ wrongs conveyed sentiments of weakness and contrition.

“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” President Barack Obama

Put simply, the products of free speech that are courageously shielded by the First Amendment should never be uttered in the same breath as evil acts of murder, and most certainly not as a conciliatory prelude. Our ability to invite all forms of speech that range from the dissenting to the disgusting to the debating remains one of the foundations of our unlikely emergence as the greatest nation this world has known. To rebuke and condemn free speech, the very freedom that our Founding Fathers and subsequent soldiers donated their lives, as the cause of a ruthless effect – all in the name of appeasement, precisely demonstrates the unfortunate weakness of President Obama’s foreign policy. As I explained in Words Speak Louder Than Actions: Rhetoric, Israel, and the Obama Presidency, the American Presidency as an institution has increasingly undertaken the role of a spokesman due to our ever-growing means of streamlined communication. As such, each and every word spoken by the President has grown exponentially louder and powerful, commensurate with technological innovation. Thus, when the world (and most importantly, our Middle Eastern enemies) awaited the initial response by the White House following the murders of the United States Ambassador to Libya and three other American diplomats, the opportunity to convey American strength reached its zenith. Unfortunately, President Obama categorically failed in his role as our spokesman by projecting sentiments of contrition towards those who have broken the law rather than unconditional solidarity with those who have kept it. Further, President Obama offered a baseless deontological comparison without regard for the contextual pertinence of the First Amendment (in the form of likening the prior actions of “denigrat(ing) the religious beliefs of others” with those of “senseless violence”) instead of a necessary utilitarian condemnation.

We cannot permit violent actions or threats to instill a fear of free speech, and we cannot allow our government to restrict our ability to exercise this fundamental right.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

As Florida Senator Marco Rubio noted on the Senate floor, “they’re not just offended about a YouTube video. They’re offended that women serve in the U.S. Senate. They’re offended that women drive. They’re offended that little girls get to go to school. In some of these countries, converting to Christianity is punishable by death. Our whole culture is offensive to them, not just a YouTube video.” If we foolishly condemn the use of YouTube by Americans (which has cost us both our values and $70,000) because of the offense it may yield, I fear for the fate of the next American value that upsets, and so on and so forth. Limiting our freedoms as a means of pacifying those who murder is as vicious a cycle conceivable.

Further, the aforementioned words of President Obama also exist as a direct divergence from the ideals protected in the above First Amendment. By condemning speech regarding the particular religion of Islam, the President has respected an establishment of religion by barring its critics from the free exercise of speech. To mirror the words of Congressman Paul Ryan, President Obama has sought to selectively replace the founding value of free speech in lieu of its bold reapplication.

For instance, where is the White House condemning “Piss Christ” (the urine-submerged crucifix that was sponsored by your tax dollars via the National Endowment for the Arts), which is scheduled to reappear at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in New York City on Thursday? Does such artwork not effectively “denigrate the religious beliefs of others”? Why is Christianity being punished because its anger will not reach the crazed status of radical Islamists? By condemning the fearmongers’ challengers, we surrender our values, and thereby induce a fear of speech’s freedom. Moreover, we are incentivizing the restriction of our ability to exercise free speech by picking and choosing which religions are deemed too sensitive via the Likert scale of offense and wrath. We mustn’t permit such intrusions on our courage to dissent, or thus on our liberty to do so.

Our need to stand with Israel against Iran has never been greater.

“A friend is one who has the same enemies as you have.”  Abraham Lincoln

Unfortunately, in conjunction with our mutual values, our unshakable bond with Israel extends to the enemies that we share. Throughout this repeated series of protests throughout the Middle East, merely one other nation’s flag has consistently burned in tandem with ours, merely one other nation suffered a strikingly similar attack on its Egyptian embassy just last year, and merely one other nation was also recklessly blamed for producing the filmmaker of the notorious YouTube video (despite spurious media reports, the filmmaker is neither Israeli nor Jewish).

The pertinence of such shared enemies and shared grief undoubtedly stems from our aforementioned need to learn from previous tragedies as a means of preventing future ones. Iran’s increasing ability to achieve nuclear status does not merely threaten the one nation known as Israel – it severely threatens America. While the United States should of course defend Israel for Israel’s sake, we must too defend Israel for America’s sake. Once more returning to our shared values, Israel has served as the proxy of American values in the Middle East. To think that the hatred of the Israeli cherishment of liberty, tolerance, opportunity, and justice exists in lieu of the hatred of its analogous cherishment in America precisely demonstrates our need to redress such a grievance.

Parker Mantell | Indiana University | @ParkerMantell