I’ve wrestled with the awful massacre for more than a week now. Nine days ago I had my finger on the trigger to publish a simple image declaring “Je suis Charlie”. But on reflection, the facile pronouncement didn’t sit right with me. I chose self-restraint. I went to bed.
I’m not going to write a complicated essay on freedom of expression. Such freedom is incontestable. It needs no defense or explanation from me. And those who would obstruct the freedom may be called any number of names, none of which will improve upon the fact that self-expression is a sacred right.
But this sacred right is also nuanced. It is a right to be exercised with conscience. One must ask: What does my expression say about me? What does the manner of my expression say about myself? For every expression, there is an impression.
In the case of Charlie Hebdo, I must confess to getting the impression of an organization that is intolerant, crude, and as backward as the backwardness it attempts to mock. I see a playground fool who lacks self-restraint, whose two lips taunt rather than communicate. This schoolyard tease is bound to be misunderstood, for he often chooses a low form to express a high ideal. In a way, he abuses the very freedom of expression he seeks to defend.
There is no justification for last week’s murderous rampage. There is no justification for incessant, deliberate jeering.
Two of the more thoughtful responses to last week’s attack on Charlie Hebdo I’ve seen include those by Dennis Perrin and David Brooks. I wish I had the time and the patience for that kind of writing. Alas, I do not. My world is literature, and I’d like to get back to writing my novel.
Yes, a satire.