On the Charlie Hebdo Killings

I cannot conceive of any circumstances under which I would either die or kill for my faith. That’s because I don’t have one – at least one based on any kind of religious, supernatural belief. However, I can easily conceive of circumstances under which I might die or kill for my right to write my mind’s innermost, darkest thoughts, for those thoughts, regardless of whether they give offense, are who I am, which I could no more deny than physically amputate. As a writer, the stiff winds of anti-intellectualism borne of ideology and a fundamentalist belief in one’s cause or faith are enough to give pause. When did we jump the shark in our public discourse that the first recourse against being offended by a differing viewpoint is to pick up a rifle, knife or bomb and kill – or, less fatally, to censor – the messenger? Intellectually, it feels as if we have retreated further into the Dark Ages again after the unthinkable killing of ten staff members and two police of the French satirical cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo during an editorial meeting. To say that these people in any way asked for this to happen by “poking the Islamic bear” evokes the same ludicrous argument making the rounds in our culture lately that rape victims ask for their attack by wearing provocative clothing. As Jonathan Chait wrote, “One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”

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