I am going to be honest. I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before the shooting. I suspect that a majority of my continent hasn’t. Sifting through the articles, I don’t fully understand what the comics are saying. I pick out words. I draw conclusions from the images. I find a lot of articles stating Charlie Hebdo is racist, xenophobic, homophobic and every other kind of phobic there is. Which I suspect, is how people without senses of humor view satirists. Ultimately, that isn’t what this post is about. I want to talk about the reaction and the subsequent reactions.
Free speech gives the freedom to say what one wants. To be critical, to be edgy, to be challenging. The right to say what one wants, is there to protect the people with the unsavory statements. Saying nice things, doesn’t have to be protected. Everyone likes to hear nice things, even dictators.
The other side of the coin is the responsibility to listen responsibly. Which means if one wants to exercise their right to free speech, they in turn, should listen to the otherside. If they disagree, they are free to refute. If they get too uncomfortable they are free to ignore the other side. To change the channel, to not read the work, to just walk away.
There is a practice both sides should exercise. A quality that seems to be so easily lost, that it makes me wonder if it ever truly existed at all. Empathy. Empathy is the practice of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Seeing the opposing view’s side. An attempt to understand the other side. A key part of empathy is respect. If not for the other person’s view then, at the very least, enough respect for them as a human being.
What happened on January 7th, 2015 wasn’t the flip side of the coin. It wasn’t responsible. It was an escalated reaction. There was no respect for the other human. Say what you will about Charlie Hebdo. It is a satirical magazine that makes fun of seemingly everyone and everything. Those were artists that were killed. They disagreed, they challenged, and they were killed. That, is fucking scary. Just because a few assholes didn’t like to be challenged? Those asshole’s actions have tainted an entire people. Slanted views. Thrown fuel on other assholes fires. One side’s extremists have riled up the other side’s extremists and the ones in the middle are going to be the ones that suffer. That, is even scarier. Empathy.