I live within walking distance of the Dove World Outreach Center, and I could easily have witnessed the burning of a Quran there last Saturday afternoon.
But like nearly all other Gainesville, Fla., residents, I chose not to acknowledge the act of Islamophobia by Terry Jones, pastor of a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church. The burning of a Quran was the pastor's way of protesting the imprisonment of a Christian clergyman in Iran.
It was done in spite of a plea from the Pentagon -- a warning that such an affront to Islam could put American soldiers in Afghanistan, and throughout the world, at greater risk.
According to the Gainesville Sun, the publicized event attracted only about 20 people -- many of whom were quite possibly members of the tiny congregation. But unfortunately, the proceedings were streamed live over the Internet -- reaching millions of people worldwide.
The last time a Quran was burned by the pastors of Dove World, in March 2011, the resulting retaliation in Afghanistan left 12 people dead -- including two American military personnel. It's too soon to know what damage has been done by Saturday's repeat performance.
But whatever the repercussions, the cost to the man who causes it all will be small. Terry Jones has been served with a citation for violating a fire ordinance. Due to environmental concerns about the glue in bindings, the outdoor burning of books is illegal. The fine, including court costs, is $271.
So what can be done about this man of God with blood on his hands? What can be done to prevent further acts that incite violence, and threaten the safety of our military, as well as private American citizens worldwide?
Terry Jones has the right to protest. The Constitution says so, and we wouldn't want to change that. Therefore, as abhorrent as it is, the burning of the Quran is an exercise in free speech.
There is something, though, that American and world leaders can and must do. They must lead. They must lead in the effort to further understanding of, and tolerance for all religions. President Obama and the Vatican did just that in July, 2009, when Terry Jones first came on the scene.
A president and a pope caused a ripple effect of reasonable, responsible thinking that has slowly, but steadily made the likes of Terry Jones more repulsive to more people.
Call it trickle down leadership.