Last week, leading up to September 11th, there was a lot of conversation going on about this preacher in Florida who had announced that he was going to be having a Koran burning (they keep changing the spelling of the book so I’m going with this one for now). I found the whole conversation somewhat fascinating and wasn’t upset with the preacher all that much. That may read strangely for those of you who know how much I talk about diversity, but I have a point to make so stay with me.

There were a few things I found fascinating about all of this. One, no one has ever heard of this preacher, and I wondered who decided to make him the poster boy for intolerance in 2010. After all, in previous years there have been other preachers and those who have suspect affiliations that have done the same thing that never garnered as much fanfare. As a matter of fact, though I can’t fully confirm it, there were many news reports of Koran burning on September 11th in NYC after the tributes were over. Yet none of those got close to the attention this guy got. And he was the leader of a congregation that only had 50 people; if he’d had 10,000 members that might have been real news.

Two, as I mentioned, this type of thing has happened before. In the first year after what happened in 2001 there were Koran burnings and burnings of all sorts of other things against Muslims throughout the country. I don’t remember anyone being all that upset about it either, though most people probably just wanted to stay silent because the majority of us were pretty emotional back then.

Three, whereas other countries love burning flags of those it opposes, this country almost seems to be been built on burning books; yes, that’s tongue in cheek. All sorts of books have been burned throughout the years, including Harry Potter books. It’s hard for me to fathom people actually going to the store to buy something that they’re going to turn around and burn; capitalism the concept laughs every day at something like that.

Four, it was an interesting lesson on leadership, the entire episode. President Obama came out with his statement and for the first time he seemed a little, well, mean towards someone, even though it was a stupid thing the preacher was going to do. General Petraus came out against it saying terrorist factions were using it as a call to arms. I thought that was a bit dramatic because it seems terrorists haven’t had many problems in getting new recruits to join their cause. Some leading politicians came out with statements, while others stayed quiet; that was telling as well because it showed that either some leaders may have secretly wanted to see what was going to happen because they agreed with it or because they were trying to figure out how it could benefit or hurt them politically; it is a major election year after all.

At the end it was much ado about nothing. For some reason I never thought the preacher was going to go through with it, and he didn’t. Instead he went to NYC and either did or didn’t meet with the guy who’s looking to build the Muslim Center there. It all made me wonder what the point was in the long run. I think this story about two young Muslims traveling the country and finding nothing but tolerance and acceptance was a much more important story. Many people tend to let their emotions run wild without sitting back and evaluating whether an issue is really important or not in the context of how it impacts their lives and the lives of others around them. I think many leaders, especially leaders in the media, dropped the ball on this one.

And in the end, everyone lost another opportunity to have a discussion about race, religion, and tolerance.