To arms, comrades! #CharlieHebdo
By Chilean political cartoonist Francisco J. Olea
I don't belong to any organized religion. But some of the people I love, do. To them, and to people I don't know and may never know, but whose rights to believe as they see fit I nonetheless recognize and respect, it is my custom to extend the courtesy of not mocking their religion. Of refraining from questioning tenets of their faith, no matter how silly I might consider them, until and unless they affect me personally or affect public policy. And even then, I would challenge their beliefs only inasmuch as they restricted the freedoms of others; I would do my best to avoid being nasty or sneering. TL;DR: I'm a nice girl, and being a provocateur is not my job.
At the same time, though, I not only wholeheartedly support the right of citizens and members of the press to write, draw, and publish criticism of people's religion--even highly offensive criticism--I'm also moved to reiterate the absolute necessity of them doing so in a free society, and to oppose any and all notions that the state should somehow restrict the free expression of religious criticism.
To invoke Frank Zappa: Words. Just Words.
I sometimes get offended by things I see and read. But I am not harmed by them: instead, they provoke me to examine my thinking, at which point I may be offered, as Mill once said, "the opportunity of exchanging error for truth", or else "the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."
Moreover, I have the freedom to click away; to turn my head from the television; to not buy the magazine; to ignore; to forget.
When power--be it in the form of traditional government or self-appointed or state-sponsored terrorist forces--gets involved in restricting free speech, we no longer fully have those opportunities, perceptions, or rights. Because the end result of the restriction of speech by power is violence, as it was in Paris yesterday. And when people wind up dead, we no longer have anything at all--neither freedom, nor rights, nor, ultimately, breath.
Je suis Charlie.