The trouble with setting your clock radio to the news is that you wake up thinking you had a bad dream only to discover it was the news seeping into your groggy head. Truth is sometimes more awful than fiction.
As you may have heard, 12 people in France were murdered recently, most of them employed at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, apparently because the magazine offended the murderers with its words and pictures.
To be blunt, that was sort of the point of the magazine. Satire, that is. Not murder. One of the dead, editor Stephane Charbonnier, had said that “…if Muslims considered Muhammad too holy to be the target of humor, ‘your God is very, very small; your prophet is a midget.’”
When will we outgrow the idea that disrespect can be punishable with death? Salman Rushdie, not unfamiliar with offending the religious and being threatened for it, also stands with Charlie:
I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.
Even writers of drivel as trivial as this blog should pay attention here to the importance of satire, dissent, and “fearless disrespect.”
But I’m not going to let you off so easy as to file this neatly under religious intolerance so you can say it’s far away and only practiced by lunatics. Disproportionate violent response to insult and disrespect (real and imagined) is all around us. What else is it when a loner shoots his classmates for ostracizing him, when gang bangers shoot one another over slights, and when a police officer shoots a kid for refusing to get out of the middle of the street and getting in his face? Why is a gun so often the first thing we reach for when we’re offended?
This is not how I wanted to start another year.