Why I am Charlie

Charlie HebdoSadly, the first week of 2015 brought both shock and sorrow to much of the world, as yet another act of fervent violence has shaken our collective consciousness.

he drew firstOn January 7, masked gunmen entered the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people including “Charb”, publishing director of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo StĂ©phane Charbonnier.

According to CNN, “The two brothers accused of carrying out the Charlie Hebdo attack, Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, are dead. So is grocery store suspect Amedy Coulibaly, authorities said.”

What we may not know, and in fact may never truly comprehend, is what is stolen from us, as a global society, each time we are faced with racism, hatred, violence and atrocity.

In particular, acts of violence perpetrated in the name of God, Allah, or any religious deity, are so heinous as to be the stuff of social nightmare.

It’s been many years since I first questioned my own faith. I was thirteen, and found myself asking how any God, any almighty, all-powerful being, would allow children to suffer the way I’d suffered. It’s a question that has never been answered to my satisfaction.

Despite my own sometimes wavering faith, which dangled precariously by a thread throughout my youth, I’ve never felt the urge to ridicule the faithful. Nor have I ever wanted to publicly denounce any single religion or culture.

Being the adult survivor of childhood abuse, my life has been dedicated to peaceful living.

When Charlie was alive, I would not likely have been a supporter. In truth, I found some of those cartoon images to be in poor taste, harsh even.

But Charlie died on January 7.

Or, rather, he was murdered, along with eleven of his colleagues, said to have been chosen deliberately for execution.

And that changed everything.

When I say “I am Charlie”, it’s my attempt to state that freedom of expression is not some airy-fairy concept that can be tossed out with the current trends.

Freedom of SpeechFree speech is not the exclusive right of people with whom I happen to agree. Nor is it the domain of the rich, the powerful or the pious.

This thing we hold so dear, this right to say, both publicly and privately, what we believe, is something we must defend.

Silence never fed a child. It never rescued the abused, clothed the naked or educated the ignorant. Silence is the great enabler of all that is wrong with the world.

When I speak my personal truth, I don’t expect the world to listen.

Nor will I be silenced.

Because I believe, as many do, that freedom of speech and the torch-light of education are the greatest weapons we have against tyranny, oppression, hunger and ignorance.

Murder is always an act of evil, born of the parents Hatred and Ignorance.

It cannot and will not be justified by religious doctrine.

And that is why, for now and for all time, I am Charlie.

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