Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The atrocity in Paris

Calligraphy by Stephanie Shapiro

     Journalists are very fortunate in this country. We can write what we please, without fear that somebody is going to come around and kill us. Some nasty remarks from disgruntled cops, some noxious posts by Right Wing haters, but nothing that can't be shaken off with a shiver, like a dog coming in from the rain.
     But the slaughter of 12 staffers of Charlie Hebdo, a French satiric newspaper, reminds us how precious that is, how threatened. How history is dominated by the brutal and the powerful crushing those who question or laugh at them. Or, in this case, the armed and the fanatical, trying to.
     You know why they do it. It's hard to be ridiculed. To have your most cherished beliefs held up for mockery. The intelligent person examines the scorn and satire directed his way, roots around in the mess for what kernels of truth may be, and tries to learn from those. None of us is perfect, no belief system without flaws.
     The fanatic doesn't have that option. When you can't examine your own beliefs, the only outlet is to attempt to silence those questioning you. Just a few days ago a Chicago cop started demanding online, in posts and tweets brandishing images of his badge, that I apologize for something I said about the police. I saw his efforts, shrugged, and thought, "I don't have to ask permission from the Chicago Police Department to say what I think, nor do I have to apologize to them when I do." What I said was true, and even if it weren't, that's what freedom is, a cacophony of voices, some respectful, some irreverent, some false, some true. In a democracy, we respect citizens enough to let them sort it out. Some of us do, anyway.  Some haven't gotten the memo, or refuse to read it, or have read it but can't quite grasp the concept. Free speech is great for them. For others, it's just blasphemy.
      A shame. Free speech makes you strong. It creates a world where ideas thrive because they work, not because those who would point out the flaws are beaten down. Fanatics who must gag opposing thoughts, inspired by their supposedly powerful faith, ironically have less faith, in themselves, in what they believe. Otherwise, why couldn't they trust their ideas to succeed on their own merits? Terrorist outrages like the one in France are, in essence, expressions of weakness, of doubt. My God—or at least God as I would envision Him—is a powerful God, not undercut by cartoons. You would think that would be an easy position for anyone of faith to embrace. Alas, it is not.
    The purpose of these crimes is to instill fear, the fear they already feel, terror of life, of otherness. We should react the opposite: by renewing our courage, our belief in the redemptive power and beauty of free speech. These terrorists do not represent a faith, they do not represent a philosophy. They are ragged stragglers fighting for a cause that has already lost, long ago.

26 comments:

  1. even back when i was a believer, i never really understood the concept of a supposedly Supreme Being in need of constant praise and/or defending.

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  2. A cause that they lost, in a century they still live in: the 7th.

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  3. The Charlie Hebdo killers were guys armed with AK 47's shouting Allah Akbar. Evidently thought they were serving a higher power. As some wit once said "Bad people do bad things all the time, but for good people to do bad things it takes religion."

    Tom Evans

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    1. I was either Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens

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    2. Whoever said such a dumb thing evidently is ignorant of most of the history of the twentieth century. Secular "true believers" like the communists have demonstrated that the religious have no monopoly on violence.

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    3. good point ,david

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    4. @David P Graf: The Communists have a god, his name is Lenin.

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  4. Disagree, Tom. They're still bad people, but they're lunging after a good justification. A lot of people, bad in their own right, want to accept that, so as to tar a religion they hate already. But it isn't the religion that makes them do it. They do it, and seek religion to justify it. The Muslims don't have a lock on that logic, alas.

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    1. Are we born bad then?

      John

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    2. "Bad" is a moral judgment. We are animals, and as anybody who has watched toddlers knows, you don't need to be taught to crack somebody over the head and steal his cookie. I would say that we have to be taught to be good. Of course what you and I think is good is different than what radicals think is good. The whole don't-hurt-people ethic is elusive to many.

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    3. Good time to reread Anna Karenina and watch Tolstoy explore such issues even if his conclusion is tough to swallow.

      Come to think of it, he obviously didn't think that Vronsky and company going off to kill Muslims was a good thing to do despite overwhelming popular approval.

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    4. We aren't animals, Mr. S.

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    5. What are you, then? Plants? Robots?

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    6. There's some evidence of innate "good"/ethics/whatnot, though I generally agree that without instruction man will behave as instinctually towards survival and pleasure as any creature.

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  5. "but nothing that can't be shaken off with a shiver, like a dog coming in from the rain." Is that something you wrote yourself or did you pull it from a poem or book, literature ect...? I'm going to use that one when 2015 gets rough. Don't want to hate. Don't want to be racist. I'm friends with many wonderful Muslims but we do have a problem. If you look at the Arab press it's loaded with anti-Jew shit but there are no black hats (lately-Baruch Goldstein) shooting up Mosques. Only one religion is still killing for blasphemy. I'm sorry raw fact.

    Andy

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    1. "Is that something you wrote yourself"? Kind of a left-handed compliment, is it not? To be honest, I consider it a cliche, just an image floating out there. I must have read it somewhere.

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    2. well said, Andy

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  6. HEY OUR LEADER MADE A YAHOO WIRE ARTICLE!

    http://news.yahoo.com/-jesuischarlie--thousands-tweet-support-for-victims-of-paris-terror-attack-163629779.html

    Andy

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    1. Well, look at that! What are the odds they'd fish mine out?

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    2. Whatever the odds, you definitely deserve kudos for your comment!

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  7. Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord, I WILL repay.
    Je Suis Charlie. We will remember.

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    1. That's sort of becoming the thing we're supposedly against, is it not? Vengeance against WHOM?

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    2. The point is that God will be the one taking the vengeance not us.

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  8. against fanatical muslims, stop trying to protect them

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