On the Charlie Hebdo fiasco, massacre, and tragedy

The Charlie Hebdo tragedy is related to religion and culture, and inter religious sensibilities.  As a persistent voice on such matters for close to 40 years, silence is not an option, even in the din.

The elements around which to forge and express opinion are clear. Everyone sees and knows the same thing. The rest is simply to arrange and express an interpretation and bias. Given this, silence is tempting.

What are the elements? A French satirical magazine persistently mocks, provokes, and denigrates the most sacred and beloved figure of a believing community. Miscreants killed the people responsible.

Probably a big majority of people think it is wrong to provoke people and mock and denigrate things they love and hold sacred. Almost everybody thinks it’s wrong to kill people you don’t agree with, and most people in modern civilization give lip service to being in favor of “free speech,” and “freedom of expression” (while a great many screaming the loudest are some of the greatest enemies of free speech around).

There you have it. 3 parts. Build your opinion.   Is it perfectly fine to mock and offend? Is it right to kill people you don’t agree with? Should there be limits on “free speech”?

Many have asked my opinion on this.

I stumbled upon a response that captures my sentiments elegantly and eloquently. I have chosen, rather that try to appropriate these, and clothe them to look like my own, that it is more respectful to point readers to this piece I believe speaks so well on these horrible developments. A genuine defense of free speech.

… whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.

We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.

But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.

Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles… 

Please read the full essay by David Brooks of the New York Times “I Am Not Charlie Hebdo


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