7 January, L A.S. (2015)
My response to today’s attack in Paris
The disturbing news has spread around the world today, of the brutal terrorist attack on the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people are dead, including four cartoonists, the magazine’s editor, and two police officers who responded to the scene. What was the magazine staff’s crime? Daring to poke fun at the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and at Islamic violence, through satirical cartoons. The police officers’ crime? Daring to protect law, order, and innocent lives in the capital of France.
The three perpetrators carried automatic weapons, wore masks, shouted phrases such as “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great!”) and appeared well-organized in carrying out the attack and then escaping the scene. Was it ISIS? Perhaps, as the group has promised violence against America’s allies. But the particular religious extremist organization is irrelevant to me right now.
These events of January 7th, 2015, in Paris, remind all of us who value secular, free, and civilized society, of the threat that religious extremism (an all-too-common product of religion itself) poses. I don’t care if such extremism is inspired by Islam,Christianity, Buddhism, or Marxism: slaughtering and bullying people because they say or draw things that offend you is insane and intolerable. Civilized people fight words with words, not with bullets. I expect to see many “politically correct” apologists for such extremism in the coming days. But I hope that the media in my country, in France, and around the world remains strong in not bowing to the wishes of Jihadists.
Freedom of the press is a cherished right with a long history in both France and in the United States. It gives all of us accountability against those who wield authority; temporal or spiritual. In the coming days, I hope that newspapers and television programs around the world splash the Charlie Hebdo cartoons across their pages and their screens, and give attention to the cartoonists, not just to the barbarians who murdered them. From Le Monde to The New York Times, from France 24 to CNN, let’s remain defiant, and show the terrorists that we will not be cowed. I’m pleased to see already that CNN’s Chris Cuomo showed one of the cartoons during his report on the events. I hope more journalists follow his lead.
After the September 11th, 2001 Islamist terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, the French newspaper Le Monde headlined an article “Nous sommes tous Americains”. This was a truly touching show of solidarity between our two nations, who share a long-standing (if occasionally strained) alliance, and long-standing ideals of freedom in thought, speech, and conscience.
I say, “aujourd’hui, nous sommes tous Francais”. I send my condolences and best wishes to the people of France, especially those employed in journalism or law enforcement. May these extremists, and their dangerous cohorts around the world, be brought to swift and decisive justice.
I salute cartoonists, satirists, and literary trouble-makers everywhere!