I’m staying close to home today, listening to the news, watching and feeling the unfolding of yet another terrorist horror. I can turn my head and avoid all things negative and depressing, but I will not. I need to know it, hear it, think about it and feel it. It’s my world, I don’t want to hold anything back.
For the past two days French born terrorist brothers have kept the world on edge plowing their way through Parisian buildings and streets bent on a bloody mission of carnage and death. In the end, some 18 individuals lie dead in the name of martyrdom…in the name of Allah. We shake our heads in disbelief over this growing cancer that’s becoming commonplace…and we wonder…is this is our new normal?
Following the story from the start, I could not ignore the obvious and unique differences from other terror stories. This is a story of vengeance by killers for specific acts by specific people. We don’t have to ponder or dig and ask why, they reason is clear. Two brothers bent on revenge killing for things they do not like, coupled with a twisted interpretation of religious duty.
Their targets – cartoonists, a specific group of French gentleman who have spent years throwing digs and insults at their Prophet Mohammed via cartooning. Charlie Hebdo, the Paris-based weekly satirical publication is famous for its risqué cartoons and takedowns of politicians, public figures and religious symbols of all faiths. In step with such haranguings and put-downs, the magazine once published an issue featuring a cartoon that appeared to depict a naked Mohammed, along with a cover that appeared to show Mohammed being pushed in a wheelchair by an Orthodox Jew.
While Charlie Hebdo cartoonists use their public forum to insult both religion and religious figures, certain dangerous members of their audience have been clear about expressing their blood curdling, al-Qaida-inspired disdain. The ‘unhappy’ include a scary and murderous group of fanatical Muslim extremists bent on revenge towards those who continuously diss its religion — specifically those penned by Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.
It is important to know that freedom of expression is an important and vital part of the French culture and over the years Charlie Hebdo has stood firm in its fearlessness of lampooning religious groups and its editorial right to do so.
As mothers, we teach our children to understand the basic values of respecting others. I don’t care how un-religious you are – do your own thing and let people do theirs. “Bullying” a specific religion or religious group is dangerous business and in 2015 you do so at your own risk, even in the name of free speech, even in the name of humor. Even Pope said, “speak something bad about my mother and you’ll get punched”.
Watching the story unfold the world is stunned to eye-witness such carefully planned acts of revenge where diabolical, crazed zealots are able to launch a murderous mission right before our eyes. And now, there is no going back, we track their movements on TV where two misguided grown-up orphaned brothers wear suicide like a badge of honor. Now, after gaining entrance to the secure building they somehow make their way upstairs with ease, rushing a Charlie Hebdo staff meeting only to shoot and kill at point blank, 12 cartoonists – the very people responsible for their angst and humiliation. Not yet finished, their killing spree takes to the streets, spreading intense fear amongst Parisians, where they overtake a printing shop. One brother takes a moment to shake the hand of a unknowing customer, moments later answering the phone only to reveal much needed information about their purpose, their rant, their leaders. Moments later, in a hail of bullets — the brother terrorists are surrounded and finally taken down in a hail of bullets from Paris cops.
With the drama over, the story will remain painfully fresh in our minds and our thoughts are on the French people and the rest of us that hold France near and dear to our heart.
But in the end, we cannot help ponder if some level of change is in order. Change in how our words and writings can affect various cultures or groups and whether making fun to this extent should be minimized, adjusted, or eliminated. NOT because we are afraid, but because our thoughtfulness to change is what makes us great. We ask ourselves whether bullying religion is ok, and how we would feel if WE were the target of bullying —even though it is meant to be funny, and no harm is meant.
Comedic artistry and freedom of speech doesn’t mean harmful insults. In the US, we do not practice this level of literary freedom to the extent that many other countries do, and for that I am proud of this sensitivity. Religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, all are game, but I believe we are smarter and far more sensitive and creative than this. And it often takes something like the Paris tragedy, the loss of respected cartoonists and loss of life in general to humble ourselves enough to find the guts and the strength to consider change in order to be better.