There were three aspects of the recent shooting at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo that frightened me. The first being the initial shock that arises from learning of a terrorist attack, the feeling of sadness and vulnerability. The second wave of fear was the realization that this was not just another assault, but a direct attack on free speech, an ideal that embodies individuality, creativity, expression and knowledge. The third wave was one I had experienced before, the fear of a ripple effect. I worried that the incorrect presumption that this catastrophe was an act of the Islamic religion would only spawn more hate, creating the very thing that had spurred this event.
It is a sad but true fact that everyone our age has experienced this emotion, the slightly disoriented feeling that arises when you learn about a recent terrorist attack. I can recall it clearly after the Boston Marathon bombings. It is a upsetting feeling, realizing the lives lost and the many injured. It is also rather confusing. I think it is difficult to entirely comprehend how people can harbor so much hate for others. I mean, we hear of things like this relatively frequently and we understand that these kinds of things happen. Yet it is still difficult to cope with, when one deeply examines the fact that something drove these men to such hate, that they believed wholeheartedly that these journalists do not deserve to live anymore. Accompanying this confusion is the immediate fear that terrorism is crawling closer to you and your family. This feeling was painfully apparent at the Marathon, but I still feel it in over the Parish attack, thousands of miles away. Although they were not attacking America, they were attacking journalists, the human representation of free speech and, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, a value on which our culture was built.
I do not agree with the cartoons published by the magazine Charlie
Hebdo. I would say that they portray Islam in a derogatory way. This poor depiction is not exclusive to Islam; the magazine has insulted all walks of life including America and friendly European countries. However, no matter how much I dislike their content, their editors have the right to publish the material. As much as we roll our eyes at a rude cartoon, a wild proclamation from Time magazine, or an image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone, these are byproducts of freedom of speech. Although we can fiercely disagree with some things that are published (or most things), without freedom of speech we would lose the many world-changing articles, poems, songs, books and speeches that have been created. We would feel alone in our selves, losing the song that captures our exact emotion. We would lack inspiration, never hearing that speech that urges us to do more. Without the freedom to express ourselves we would not form different opinions, we would not challenge opposition, we would not overthrow tyranny, we would not fight for what we believe in, and we would not have the ability to profess our truth. To take away freedom of speech would be to smother the passion that is inside every one of us. The attack on Charlie was an attack on freedom of speech and the only way to encounter this is to fight back. I do not mean fight back in the traditional sense, but to use the gift of speech to fight against terror and encourage hope.
As I had mentioned, the last wave of fear that came over me was the fear of a ripple effect. I will use Boston as an example again. I hated coming back to school after this catastrophe because I hated listening to my classmates talk about Muslims. It was not all my classmates, but enough to trouble me. I heard derogatory things said about the people who practice this religion. I am sure this was just people speaking from a hurt place, saying things that they did not really mean, but this is only a small example of a terrible phenomenon. If allowed to fester, this hate, this feeling of being attacked or harmed, can turn into something so much more. Although the act was deranged, the terrorists who attacked Charlie believed they were retaliating against the phallic-faced image of Mohammed that the magazine released. I fear that this hate will continue, that our society will have caught this feeling and turn it around on the people who practice the same religion as these terrorists. This was not the crime of an entire faith, but the crime of some sad, sick men. In fact, many devout Muslims condemned the attack and any terrorists who use violence in the name of their faith.
Ridding oneself of hate is not an easy task, but it is something that we all must strive for. As difficult as it is, we cannot allow the fear of this terrorism to affect us any further. In order to combat it, we must carry on, professing love in all ways possible and hoping that it can spread.