Freedom to Speak

Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.

-Salman Rushdie

The threat or fear of violence should not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech.

-Alan Dershowitz

Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter.

It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown. As Randazzo points out, Wednesday’s attack — if it was the work of religious extremists, which is not yet confirmed — actually proves that Charlie Hebdo’s satire worked. He wrote, “It so threatened its target, cut so deeply at the truth, that it resorted to the most cowardly, most offensive and despicable form of lashing out.”

-Joe Randozzo, former editor of The Onion and German Lopez, Vox

When we blog, we exercise our freedom of speech. We have the right to voice our opinions, even those that may differ from others. It’s a right most of us hold dear.

I’m wrapped in disbelief and sadness at the cruel and unfathomable hatred that lead to the Charlie Hebdo attack. Sending love and support to the people of France, and to upholders of free speech everywhere. I extend my hand and heart as well to those who’ve yet to understand or live the very freedoms we take for granted.

Of possible interest:

12 powerful political cartoons responding to the Charlie Hebdo attack.

France 24

Zietung Region: A brief history of freedom of speech

22 thoughts on “Freedom to Speak

  1. I am utterly gobsmacked. I am always thrown for a loop by extreme violence, but this….I can’t find words. Best I could do is below. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    “Jerry, you have tendencies. They’re always annoying but they were just tendencies.”
    “Se ha puesto tan serio el mundo que el humor es una profesion de riesgo.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These individuals will be caught but no penalty will be enough to mend the lives of families shattered by this act of terrorism. Completely senseless, no one wins. Not Muslims and especially not Islam. All that hate in these men will have the opposite effect they are threatening. But they don’t see, they won’t see because they are blind to normality. Being anti-social, these extremists know only one thing. My thoughts are with those who’s lives have been shattered. We are fortunate to be born in democracies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “No one wins,” That is one of the greatest of ironies in all similar attacks. Hatred is spewed, lives are lost, and in the end No. One. Wins.

      You’re right, too. These people are loners, disenfranchised, angry and in need of something to define themselves. It’s so sad that it can’t be redirected to the greater good. We need the Peace Corp more than ever.

      A heartbreaking day.

      Liked by 2 people

      • yes, I feel still dumbstruck and sad too. But I am determined not to be brought down. My heart goes out to the families and everybody feeling sad about this. But I am also sure that you and I will keep on joining all those who believe in good, and beauty and freedom and will keep on bringing that into the world. Either in the big things as our sons or by contributing to the blogosphere in our own particular way. Love to you, Johanna


  3. Thank you for this post. We are all shocked and appalled here in France. The vast majority of people are standing up and saying “Je suis Charlie”.
    I also feel bad for the ordinary Muslims here who will take the brunt of the reaction to this.


    • Sorry to be replying to this so late. Much has transpired since this terrible event. I too fear for the ordinary Muslims. Some people lost there heads here too, after 9/11, blaming innocent people for the acts of the terrible cowards. I hope you’re settling back into some semblance of normal, but I know things are forever changed for you there as they are for us here. Sad, indeed.


  4. Alys, I am shocked and saddened, too, but something else has been niggling at my mind . . . I feel that we have left morality behind in our rush to ‘freedom’. I can see a cartoonist satirizing someone’s actions, but I’m not sure that some of the ‘cartoons’ that I read about achieved anything worthwhile. Doing something just because we can is not all that we are capable of, is it? I’m thinking of one set of cartoons in particular, that portrayed the Prophet Mohammed in sexual and pornographic positions. What is the point in that, except to hurt someone by attacking what they hold sacred?

    Closer to home, when I still lived in Victoria, BC, I had a young Metis friend. She kept a photo of her mother on her wall, as her mother lives here in Alberta and they don’t see each other often. One day, another girl was visiting and made fun of the photo (not asking whose picture it was) for being ‘ugly’; she said that my friend shouldn’t have such an ugly picture on her wall. When informed that the picture was of my friend’s mother, the visitor didn’t back down. She felt that what she said was ‘free speech’, but what I saw was a very hurtful act that was uncalled for no matter whose picture that was. The mother is full blooded Cree and a beautiful person, inside and out, but she doesn’t look at all ‘Europaean’, which I guess the visitor felt was required for beauty.

    We seem to have lost touch with not only the concept of sacred, but also with any understanding of what sacred means to others. To me, this is very immature and should not be encouraged. We need more understanding, respect and love in the world, not more hurting and hating (on any side). I would like to see it in my lifetime, but I’m not too hopeful.

    The other area where this concept applies, to me, anyway, is that of the ‘slutwalks’. Every time I read about one of these, I just think of how people are all different, with different strengths and abilities. If I lived in the woods where there are lots of bears, I would certainly have the ‘right’ to walk about with large steaks tied to my body. But I should not be surprised if I then became dinner for some grizzly, should I? Is it realistic to expect the bears to honour my ‘rights’?

    Well, I just wanted to say my bit. My heart goes out to the families of those who died. We can’t do anything about the actions of others, but we can choose our own response. I think it’s time we responded with love, forgiveness and blessings for all involved. Otherwise, how will we effect any meaningful change?

    Thanks for this, Alys; The past few days have been very thought-provoking for me. I hope you don’t mind my sharing my thoughts here. ~ Linne


    • I’m glad you shared your thoughts here, Linne and I apologize for my tardy reply. You are always welcome to share your views and perspectives. It’s good to talk about all of this openly and honestly. Thanks for sharing your voice and for adding to the conversation.


  5. I’m right beside you, Alys. These occurrences are growing to be page 9 news and not Headline surprises. It is awful and inhuman and continuing to the point where we are left with a few, unsatisfying answers to a growing list of questions. This is such an overwhelmingly complex situation about freedom, but also about wisdom. Finding a way for all human beings to integrate with one another on our planet seems dismal and improbable at moments like these. But we mustn’t give up. Education is enlightenment. We all must continue to educate ourselves with perspective. We need to understand one another.
    If only there was a peace pill.
    Thank you for a very worthy blog, and for allowing some community conversation to take place within your forum. Your site is a safe place that feels like a piece of home to me, and I continue to learn a great deal from you and your readers.
    Here’s to brighter days, Alys.


  6. Joe Randozzo’s words speak such truth. Thank you, Alys, for this post and for sharing the link to all the cartoons.
    It’s a scary world we live in … thank goodness we can find the goodness and beauty, too.


    • Well said, Laurie. Mr. Rogers is quoted as telling children that in times of crisis, look for the helpers. There will always be people helping. I take such comfort from that. News story since this tragedy of proven this to be true, too. People who stepped up to help others.


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