Charlie Hebdo: The Executive Summary

Herb Dempsey

When I was younger, maybe three or four years old, I used to lie awake with my eyes wide open from the time the lights went out until dawn.  I was terrified that Hitler was coming and, as it eventually turned out, I understood it was because there were people who hate.  I learned to hate it that there were people who hate.  I still hate it and there are still people who hate.  Then, I feared "The Nazi," and now we have "Terrorism."  Then, just as now, someone stood in opposition to liberty.  Then, just as now, somebody didn’t like the way we think.  Since thinking becomes speech and other expression, I have respect for the freedom because, while I am not a cartoonist, I like to write.

Doctors who treat women are shot because the haters hate that they treat women. The haters rail against the doctors in every state.  In some states the haters have already won. Doctors don’t even talk about some treatments for women’s health and in some states there aren’t any clinics which end unwanted pregnancies because the haters have elected other haters and made laws against certain practices to protect women’s health.

Thirty one journalists have been killed in Mexico since 1992 and we meet each at the Committee to Protect Journalists website.  In Mexico you can be killed for telling the truth or even for laughing at the haters.

Over a year ago Egypt imprisoned three Al Jazeera reporters because the conservatives in government didn’t like the truth in the reports they made to the public.  The reporters at Al Jeezera hope to see their colleagues set free sometime but for now, the haters have won.

Fifty years ago we fought over the realities of censorship when a Pierce County church launched a crusade in the Bethel School District to ban access to Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. The haters lost, but they keep trying.

Now we have the massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and a tribute to Stephane Charbonnier and his colleagues at Charlie Hebdo and all of those nasty feelings I had when I was a little kid come flooding back. 

The Eiffel tower went black as the lights were turned off in a tribute to the executed cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo.  I will agree with their murderers in that some of what the magazine printed I find offensive.  No, perhaps more accurately, I find it disgusting.  But I am much more disgusted by the fact that the terrorist fanatics shot the staff members of the publication in an attempt to steal their freedoms.  So I began to study what the magazine is and what it believes and what it did.  It is impossible to keep up with this issue on the Internet.  But as a tribute to this version of free speech I thought I should try.  I still hate that some hate but I have to defend their right to say what they believe.

In an often quoted expression of freedom, popularized by Emiliano Zapata Salazar, the executed publisher of Charlie Hebdo concluded: "I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees." –Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier (1967 – 2015), publisher, Charlie Hebdo.

"[Bill] Maher called for a complete condemnation of the attack, and broadened his view to the dangers of all religion….'We have to stop saying when something like this that happened in Paris today, we have to stop saying, well, we should not insult a great religion,' Maher said. 'First of all, there are no great religions; they’re all stupid and dangerous. And we should insult them, and we should be able to insult whatever we want. That is what free speech is like.'"  Bill Maher wrote and starred in the 2008 documentary film Religulous, which had a similar message.

As I move to the Internet, I find, as I said, I can't keep up with this thing.  What I did find, that I could keep up with, underlines my absolute belief in the freedom to support the liberty found in free speech.  We are now less than a week removed from the terrorism in Paris and the community of pencil pushers strikes back.  The Pierce Progressive continues to believe in free speech, and I will probably lie awake, once again, worrying about the fragile state of our liberties and the threats of terrorism.

On the Internet, which is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, we find the expression of liberty and support for those who paid a high price for what we believe is an essential freedom. The pencil pushers (cartoonists) fight back. Freedom of Speech is alive.