Is it wise to exercise our right to free speech by mocking and antagonizing a man we are told is mentally unstable, thinks of himself as a god and has nuclear weapons at his disposal? Is it wise for our president to make a speech in which he implies that it is almost a patriotic duty to support Sony Pictures by watching a crass and tasteless movie that mocks and antagonizes Kim Jong-un?
Do we think highly of men who use their freedom of speech to provoke a fight?
And how about Charlie Hebdo?
Yes, we all acknowledge Charlie’s right to publish whatever it likes, but where would we be today if John Kennedy had responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis by sending Khrushchev a caricature of a bald fat man being sodomized by Robert McNamara? Well, many of us would likely not be anywhere at all. Fortunately, we had a man of wisdom, courage and integrity at the helm in that moment of crisis.
If you’re not sure what Charlie Hebdo is all about, do a Google image search. Next do a search for Islam and blasphemy. Mix the two of them up and ask yourself if what you have might not be rather explosive.
Are we to take seriously the threat posed by idealistic but angry young men who are willing to die for their convictions? If not, I don’t know what this never-ending war on terror is all about. On the other hand, if such men do pose a real danger, is it wise or courageous to publish things simply to antagonize them?
Do we consider it an act of wisdom and courage to antagonize a rattlesnake in the path?
Terrorism is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of free speech. Murderers keep their crimes hidden. Terrorists want all the world to see. They have a message for us, and a video of a beheading gets that message across much more powerfully than, let’s say, a video of an extended middle finger.
Yes, we should stand in solidarity with the French people at this difficult time. And, no, we should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by acts of terror. We must never be made afraid to exercise our Constitutional rights. But I do wonder if it isn’t time that we discuss what it means to exercise those rights in a responsible manner.
Je suis Charlie? Non, Monsieur, not I.