Monday, January 12, 2015

While Paris Mourns


Last Week as you all know (unless you were living under a rock) Two gunmen ,claiming to be Al-queda operatives  entered the offices of a satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo and shot and killed 12 people, including a police woman...in what is being called one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in French History.

The victims of these crimes are being mourned worldwide: they were after all human beings, They were loved by their families and precious to their friends.

On Wednesday, twelve of them were targeted by gunmen for their affiliation with the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Charlie has often  aimed it's biting humor at Muslims, and it’s taken particular joy in flouting the Islamic ban on depictions of their Prophet Muhammad.

The magazine has done more than that, including taking on political targets, as well as Christian and Jewish ones. The magazine depicted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a sexual threesome. Illustrations such as this have been cited as evidence of Charlie Hebdos willingness to offend everyone. Some folks think that that is cool and hip and edgy...I just think it's mean... Being offensive for no reason is just plain mean spirited..But that's just my humble opinion.

 In recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations, and its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy, and mockery of the victims of a massacre. It is not always easy to see the difference between a certain witty dissent from religion and a bullyingly racist agenda, but it is necessary to try.

Even Voltaire, a hero to many who extol free speech, got it wrong. His sparkling and courageous anti-clericalism can be a joy to read, sometimes (and depending on if you're not Jewish)...but he was also a committed anti-Semite, whose criticisms of Judaism were accompanied by calumnies about the innate character of Jews.

This week’s events took place against the backdrop of France’s ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab.

Black people have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of African origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays U.S. President Barack Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.

All of this is edgy and funny (To Them)...

I'll bet they aren't laughing now!

I'm not trying to justify the whole scale slaughter that occurred...As my mother always told me..Two wrongs don't make a right...But they had to know that something like this was bound to happen..

So let me ask this...because I know this post is veering in an unpopular vein...Is it possible to  defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech?

 It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions.

The A.C.L.U. got it right in defending a neo-Nazi group that, in 1978, sought to march through Skokie, Illinois. The extreme offensiveness of the marchers, absent a particular threat of violence, was not and should not be illegal. But no sensible person takes a defense of those First Amendment rights as a defense of Nazi beliefs. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were not mere gadflies, not simple martyrs to the right to offend: they were ideologues. Just because one condemns their brutal murders doesn’t mean one must condone their ideology. They were racist and cruel.....And it's not popular to say that right now after a terrorist attack that took their lives...But I'm also not crying many tears for them either...

As I said...If you're being cruel or offensive to make a point to accentuate an ideal or a position...that is one thing...but just to say I'm being an offensive asshole because I have that right is a whole different animal..And still I'd defend those cartoonists right to publish whatever they like, just like I have the right to write and say what I like on this blog without violent repercussions...I would... I want to make that clear...They should not have been slaughtered...Violence is never the answer to anything..

To sum it all up in a nutshell-and to quote my frat brother, Nate Davis who was speaking on this-" The people who work for Charlie Hebdo should not have been killed for their freedom of expression no matter how vile their art was considered by those of the Muslim faith. But then the question must also be asked how disrespectful should one be allowed to be towards another's religion, race, or creed? The Muslims forewarned the magazine of their actions and yet they continued to continue disrespectful publications. Was their freedom of expression to criticize another's religion worth their lives?"

 Something I also said must be stated... We have freedom of speech, but we do not have freedom from the consequences of that speech....Kind of like a catch 22 isn't it?

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