The Paris shootings have me very upset for a variety of reasons.
There, but for the grace of god, go I … That’s the first one, though to be perfectly honest I don’t know if I really have the nerve to be Charlie—to stand by my convictions as both a satirist and journalist in the face of potentially dangerous threats by this generation’s Nazis.
I sincerely admire them for doing so. In my career I’ve experienced relatively small examples of public discontent in one form or another and it never feels good. I like to think I stand by my beliefs to some extent, but I’d be lying if I said I would definitely willingly open myself to such grave possibilities … I’m really not sure I could do it … I’m glad I don’t have to decide today …
Meanwhile a part of me questions the wisdom of inciting the insane. The longer I live, sad to say, the more pointless it seems to waste time trying to sway anyone’s ideas, let alone the warped, murky reasoning of authentic fanatics.
So what was the point behind taunting these assholes?
Reflecting on it, I don’t think most normal folk feel that compelled to offend anyone or do anything so outlandish that it would significantly buck the conventions of their time. And yet being told that one is not allowed to do something almost makes it a necessity—nay, a responsibility—to do so.
Therefore to some extent there was no point, excepting the fragile value of simply being free to do so. And that is really something—to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a value for that value’s sake.
Yet how many of us would potentially jeopardize our warmth and safety—at least in this age of placid comfort—to do so?! I’m reminded of my favorite quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter, who said, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
Whether it ever intended to or not, the American government has done a brilliant job of neutering its dissenters. Following the emotional explosion of the Sixties it wisely allowed a generous liberal girth in which those with opposing ideas could grow fat and sedentary. (Television—the great lobotomizer—was a key part of this, but there were other weapons employed.) It was a brilliant strategy to, in essence, peacefully disarm rebellion.
To me it serves to demonstrate how religious fanatics of this strain have other pathological motivations beyond changing the world to their so-called god’s liking—namely a disturbed desire for confrontation. That’s why on one level standing up to these kinds of people is a mistake, because the confrontation feeds them. Would that we could just ignore them, like errant toddlers, and they would tire and fall to sleep. Their misplaced zeal is of the same fabric—the stuff of undeveloped brain casings and the delusions of an infant’s mentality.
Another key button to this whole tragedy involves people—in this case the editorial team—not being allowed to just be themselves. From a purely psychological standpoint I place tremendous value on the benefits of a person being allowed to embrace their authentic self. Personal repression of one kind or another grows to infect and damage. I suspect a lot of emotional maladies could fix themselves if people were only given the safe space to be who they really are. So to consider this from that standpoint—an extreme example of simple intolerance—is sad and frightening, as well as grossly unfair.
I earlier referenced these people as Nazis in part because they embrace those same values. One of the things I find so frightening is not just the physical dangers that people like this present, but that overriding fascistic threat to conform or die. It seems there are so few of us these days that have the strength to resist. If push came to shove how many of us would quietly roll over and start reading the Quran even though we didn’t want to.
But through the darkness of these evil deeds comes the vibrant outpouring of light and love and consciousness, and that brings its own set of strong emotions.
People around the world—normal people—are once again being united in their clear common beliefs of what they think is right and what is wrong, what they value, what kind of world they want this to be, what it means to be human and humane, what it means to be spiritual, and what the “God” that unites us all—whatever the hell his name is!—wants us to be doing in that name!
Vive la France! Vive la Liberte’!