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January 9, 2015

“Je Suis Charlie”

Joe Charlebois

I don’t draw cartoons and anything I’ve written of satirical nature would rarely be deemed overtly offensive. However, attaching a name to an opinion-based column was difficult to do at first, knowing that roughly 50% of the people reading a column I have written might be offended – or at least strongly disagree.


Human nature is such that we humans desire to act in ways that increase the odds that people will like us. Which is why the long held advice “don’t bring up topics such as religion or politics in polite company” has been adhered to by so many for so long.


Airing opinions in public on ideologically based topics or religious and culturally divisive issues is one of the quickest ways to lose friends. Writers of satire and the cartoonists that lampoon the powerful make many enemies when there viewpoints, in the form the written word or drawn image, are widely disseminated throughout a city, country or world. Often these satirists are threatened; but rarely do their enemies act in a way that does anything but threaten their career.


In Paris this week 12 people were killed at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Nine were employees including their prominent cartoonists, two were police on a protection detail and one was a visiting journalist. They were murdered for being in the building in which those who chose to print several cartoons depicted Mohammed worked. They died at the hands of two Muslim extremist gunmen who were “avenging” the honor of Mohammed.


It will be interesting to see how attacks like these may squelch free expression of ideas throughout the “free speech” world. So far many prominent publications reporting on the story of the Charlie Hebdo murders have either cropped the images that are the source of the controversy or they have pixilated them. Despite the tremendous outpouring of support throughout the world, fear for employee safety at these major publications points to a victory for terror.


I have been a columnist for over six years and put my opinion on display for the world to see. In reality I am a writer who, by human nature, has tremendous sensitivities to the reader.


My goal as a columnist has been to present columns that are well researched, well thought out, interesting; and, of course, persuasive. I look at my columns through the lens of common sense; and though I know my opinions differ greatly from many of my readers, my goal is to present a point of view that even if not shared is respected and contemplated.


I by no means have the same level of readership as a major French publication, but I am one of thousands of writers who put our names to opinion pieces throughout the world under the protection of free speech. If that speech is ever stifled by intimidation or fear, the world will become a much more hostile place in which to live.


Even though Charlie Hebdo is a far left satirical publication and has published cartoons that denigrate Christ and Christian leaders in the most vile way, I stand for their right to continue to publish their provocative points of view.


“Je suis Charlie.”


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