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I am not Charlie

Posted by on February 5, 2015

After mulling it over for awhile, I have concluded that I am not Charlie.
Part of me, that part which is outraged at senseless killings and barbaric behavior, would like to get a t-shirt and stand with my friends in defense of free speech , but the part of me that raised children and taught children knows that there are responsibilities that come with every freedom.
I am all for freedom of speech, even when I deeply disagree with the speaker. But the concept of free speech is really aimed at two important aspects of speech: the freedom to convey information, even and especially information that may threaten power, and the freedom to express personal points of view, especially those that speak the truth to power or disagree with the majority opinion… That’s it. Freedom of speech guarantees our right to open debate and discussion and our right to know the facts. Yet with that freedom comes the responsibility to be careful what we state as fact and to avoid harm in our speech. Thus I believe that Charlie Hebdo had every right to publish their satire, however grotesque and offensive to some, but they also had every responsibility not to. I would agree and am thankful for US news outlets, like the NY Times, who, despite criticisms, refused to republish the Charlie cartoons. They did not serve to further the cause of free speech, they only served to insult, and in this case inflame misguided zealots to violence.
Do I believe that “they had it coming to them”? Absolutely not. Zealots of every stripe, especially armed ones, scare the pants off me. Such acts should be roundly condemned from every pulpit, in every mosque, in every synagogue, temple, and meeting hall….gatherings where people have the freedom to worship as they choose and the responsibility to respect that freedom for others.

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