Monday, January 12, 2015

On Missing the Boat and Missing the Point

Depending on what source you look at, anywhere from one million to 3.7 million people marched, largely silently, through the streets of Paris.  The survivors of the attacks, and family and friends, were in front.  Behind them, world leaders.*

Not ours, of course.  Obama spent the day in the White House.  Joe Biden was wherever he was. Secretary of State John Kerry was in India focusing not on freedom of speech and press and religion and tolerance but about the real American value: entrepreneurship.  Eric Holder was there to talk law enforcement and anti-terrorism, but he didn't march.  We weren't altogether absent, of course.  Our Ambassador, Jane Hartley showed up.  I imagine the 40 or so Presidents, Chancellors, Prime Ministers, and the like who were there felt honored that we showed up at all.

Meanwhile, because of the hostage-taking at the kosher supermarket, President Hollande met with Jewish leaders.  Who, The Guardian reports, expressed outrage.
Speaking to reporters before meeting Hollande and the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, Roger Cukierman, president of the Jewish umbrella group CRIF, condemned those who were using social media to express support for the Kouachi brothers killed in a shootout by police on Friday, around the same time a separate police assault killed gunman Amédy Coulibaly at the supermarket.
“It is intolerable that there is a hashtag on social media saying #IamKouachi,” Cukierman said. He branded the tweets as “an apology for murder” which should be pursued through the courts.
Because, of course, the proper way to honor freedom of thought and religion and speech and press is to criminalize the saying of bad stuff.

Which is, of course, not as bad as killing the messenger.  


I've never been a believer that if we just let everyone speak the obvious force of truth will win out in the marketplace of ideas.  I mean, maybe.  We can certainly hope.  But you'd think if it was that clear, then folks who are so damn sure they have the truth wouldn't be so intent on shutting that marketplace to every voice but theirs.  Except they know better.

One way, to ensure victory is to crush your opponent, then decapitate him.  And then burn the bodies. It is, after all, what the terrorists do, what the self-proclaimed Islamic State does, and what we, in our celebration of free speech and press and thought, of tolerance and openness.  

Hey, come.  Let us shut you down.  And imprison you.  And burn your printing press.  Because your words are bad.  And dangerous.  Because powerful.  

God, after all, named the world into existence (or so claims Genesis).  The word, logos (λόγος), calls forth the thing.
God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."
It's a pretty cool trick.  The lesson can, of course, be that words are so dangerous they must be squelched if we don't like them.  Pursue them through the courts.  Send our ambassador because everyone higher up in the chain of command has more important things to do than standing up for freedom.

Or we can march., pencils held high.  And declare, if only for today.

* No, I'm not reproducing the photo of the world leaders marching arm-in-arm, though when Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are that close together and symbolically declaring unity (not with each other, but still) and even if it is purely for their own political purposes, it's worth a moment's contemplation.

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