My heart crumbles at the repeated blood spilled every day in our world. Today, it was in Paris.
Three Islamic extremists opened fire at the office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French journal that pokes fun at religion and politics.
They killed at least twelve people, including cartoonists and the editorial director, Stéphane Charbonnier. At least 11 others were injured. The three suspects, who have not been named to the public, are still on the loose.
This sadly isn’t the first time Charlie Hebdo has been attacked. The building was bombed in 2011. Charbonnier had police protection after this and other threats he received. Despite this, Charbonnier continued to fight for the magazine’s right to free speech.
In an interview in 2012, Charbonnier said, “We haven’t infringed the French law, we have the right to use our freedom, as we understand it.”
In Paris and all over the world, people are slaughtered for their opinions. Civil rights leaders, feminists, abortion providers, and politicians. Anyone who has an opinion and voices it publicly is a target. The more people against you, the more danger you are in, and the more your life is at stake. Freedom of speech is a risk. Not only are we risking that not everyone will adore our books, our cartoons, our films, our music. We are risking our lives. We could die for our art. Stéphane Charbonnier is a hero to all artists. His strength was astounding, and he put his beliefs before his life. He died for freedom of the press. He fought a battle for la liberté that in America we don’t even think about before we post a bitchy Facebook status or tweet. Imagine being a target. Your every move monitored, every word you post on social media, at your job. Would you fight for free speech, or cower to the threats?
Charbonnier famously stated, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.” Through absolute terror, he never backed down.These terrorists are among many existing today, and there are hateful groups everywhere. The terrifying thing about the internet is that it is a double-edged sword. While we have the beauty of voicing our thoughts to wider audiences, we also run the risk of death threats if hate groups find us. The internet makes hate more vicious, anonymous, widespread, and therefore, more dangerous.
This attack on Charlie Hebdo shows that the common phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword” is not just a phrase, but a way of life. Free speech should never, ever be taken for granted because women and men like Stéphane Charbonnier died for it.
Unfortunately, the victims of Charlie Hebdo were not the first to die in an attack because of their exercised free speech, and they will not be the last. While hate groups argue that they are also exercising their own right to speak their (twisted) minds, their words too often turn into violent actions towards others. While people such as Stéphane Charbonnier use their freedom of expression for artistic purposes, the men who shot him and many others at his magazine’s building were expressing hatred.
None of us would be here, Wordpress would not be here, if it weren’t for the men and women who held up their pens and stood strong. In honor of these heroes and in memory of the lives lost at Charlie Hebdo, we cannot back down, either. Never be afraid to voice your opinions.
We are no different than any who have died before us fighting for la liberté.
We are all humans. We cannot allow fear to silence our voices. We are all Charlie.
Je suis Charlie.