Saturday, January 17, 2015

Charlie's Angels: concerning the heroes, villains, apologists and enablers. . .

Well, there can be no denying: Charlie Hebdo is an obnoxious publication. Its illustrations are ugly, amateurish, juvenile, and just plain mean.

And that is utterly irrelevant.

When there are eleven people dead, the issue is not how offensive the cartoons were. It is so completely, utterly damned unimportant, it is barely worth mentioning. And yet, there are some people who not only think it worth mentioning, but think that that is the major issue.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, leaping at the heals of free-speech solidarity were the usual lapdogs of the “but brigade” – “killing is bad but. . .”
But what? Why is it so difficult to condemn a religiously based killing without all these conditionals?

My favourite was this little doozey from the Toronto Star.

How can this be read as anything but a rationalization for the cold-blooded execution of eleven cartoonists? I’m sure they would balk at the suggestion, but why else would they insist that killings are about anything else? You will notice that not once, anywhere, do they suggest the killers were responsible for their own actions.  

It’s not even that alienation and integration et al are unimportant – they’re just incredibly irrelevant to this case. Vast swaths of people all over the western world find themselves alienated from greater society and yet don’t resort to picking up assault rifles and killing people. The article doesn’t do Muslims any favours either: inherent in its argument is a kind of infantalization of the Muslim community, suggesting they can’t control their actions, and will turn into rabid dogs when offended.

By way of refutation, might I point to the case of Mr. Ahmed Merabet, the Paris police officer executed by the gunmen (unmentioned, so far, in any of these articles). Merabet was a Muslim.  It didn’t do him any good: first they shot him in the leg. Then, as he raised his hands in surrender, they shot him in the head. These defenders of the faith hadn't a shred of mercy to spare for one of their own.
Officer Ahmed Merabet

Tell me: who is the enemy of the Muslim community?

I'm sure Mr. Merabet faced prejudice and intolerance. I am sure there were times he felt alienated from broader French society, and I'll bet he was offended by those cartoons. Nevertheless, he gave his life DEFENDING unarmed people.
He made a choice. His killers made a choice

Or, how about Mr. Lassana Bathily, the Muslim deli worker who hid Jewish customers while the gunmen went wild. I’m sure he faced prejudice and intolerance. I’m sure there were times he felt alienated from broader French society. I’m sure he was offended by those cartoons. But when the time came, he made his choice and chose his side: he decided to help people rather than kill them.
Lassana Bathily
We have a choice people. We decide how to interact with the world, how to respond to adversity, and how to interact with fellow human beings. We decide whether to pull the trigger or not.

We are also facing a choice right now about what sort of world we will live in. Who’s going to make the rules? Who’s laws will we be subject to? Are we going to face summary execution for drawing things? Will the religious edicts of the least enlightened among us apply to all?

Probably. At least, I’m not convinced anyone will try too hard to stop it. 

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