Friday, January 09, 2015

About Charlie

from Jacqueline

I’ve been pondering whether to write anything about the terrible, terrible events that unfolded in Paris on Wednesday.  At first, I thought, no – plenty of others, far more politically savvy and far more articulate than I, will be saying everything that needs to be said.  But then it seemed that to write about anything other than our basic right to express our truth would be akin to turning my back on the obvious.  Plus, writing on a blog with a name like this – Naked Authors: The Naked Truth About Literature and Life – we really have to put our two cents worth in there.  So, here’s mine – and my fellow Naked Authors, please chime in with your comments - add them to the end of this post if you like.  Just don’t erase my words though!

 From the very first time I disagreed with my parents on something I’d read in the newspaper – I must have been about nine years old (I know … sassy little moo wasn’t I?), I knew instinctively that, though they did not like what I said, they would do everything in their power to support me in my right to say it.  The fact that they argued their points back to me and waited for my response, even when my father muttered under his breath, “She’s a rebel!” – meant that it was OK to speak your truth in our house, as uncomfortable as that truth might be.  So, I have cherished that right – and I have written about it here on these pages, encouraging other writers never to be assailed by something so minor as writer’s block, when there are guys with serious ammunition killing people for uttering words they didn’t like in countries without some sort of protection and support for the free expression of opinion.  Take this girl for example – and you can’t tell me that she still doesn’t have a price on her head.

 Throughout Europe, illustrated opinion has always been considered as powerful as the written word – possibly more so than in the USA.  In France, especially, satire in the form of a hard-hitting cartoon is an accepted and important part of the political conversation, fanning the flames of heated dialogue, no matter who is offended in the process. Call it Libertie!  On Wednesday, in the offices of Paris-based satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, Islamist assassins (a couple of former rapping, small-time wide-boys) made an attempt to annihilate truth itself because freedom of expression is not part of their worldview.  They live in a country where they have the liberty to think what they like – but the fact that they attempted to punish and halt an expressed worldview different from their own in such an indescribably violent and destructive manner must be countered by anyone who has ever held an opinion in a public forum.  With social media, that probably means a good 75% of us. And thank God writers and artists the world over are picking up the tools of their trade to do just that.  Politicians must avoid tap-dancing around this one in case they lose favor – there is no side-stepping this issue.  In every self-proclaimed democracy there has to be an unequivocal support for freedom of expression, even if you don’t much like what you’re hearing or seeing.

I am a writer of historical fiction, of essays and articles, and though I have written many opinion pieces, writers like me don’t usually draw the kind of ire that leads someone to our doors with Kalashnikovs (I don't even know if that's how you spell it!).  Snarky reviews, maybe.  The odd letter of complaint – of course, we all get those, however I don’t think anyone’s going to kill me over an incorrect date, or some such thing.  But I am really impressed by people who are prepared to stand up and be counted by saying – with their art or craft – something that resonates on a collective scale, or that inspires dialogue, or a good old argument, even if it is not a popular point of view.  And I take my hat off to the many writers and artists who have shot back with their truth in the past day or so.  I am not worthy to be among your number, because you are risking death to tell your story or express your views.  I only ever risk repetitive motion syndrome and a sore back.

God bless you, you journalists and political commentators who speak your truth, who report what you have seen so that we might be better informed, and who risk your life to make us think, even when it's uncomfortable.  I might disagree with what you’ve said, or with what you have written, but by any god that exists, you have a right to your voice - and every time you use it, you empower democracy beyond measure.

Once again, wishing you peace.

Until next time ....


  1. James O. Born1/09/2015 7:50 AM

    Good post, Jackie. There are few answers we when are so far apart.

  2. from Jacqueline: You're right, Jim - closely held opinions at opposite ends of the spectrum. But this kind of violence with regard to freedom of expression just cannot go on. Admittedly, the tone of Charlie Hebdo is inflammatory - but that is its stance towards every religion, and in France, cartoonists are revered political commentators. But it's true, too, that the Muslim ghettos in the outer limits of Paris are hotbeds of inflammatory rhetoric too. What a terrible situation.

  3. In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, just a few of the headlines: Terrorist attack stuns Paris, Bombing kills 50 at police academy in Yemen, Bodies, severed heads found in Guerrero state (Mexico), Bombings and a shooting kill 8 (Iraq), Bombing called possible hate crime (Colorado Springs office of NAACP).

    Sometimes it's difficult to feel optimistic.

    And it isn't over yet:

  4. from Jacqueline: Yes, you are absolutely right. I was talking to my mother yesterday and she said, "I just don't want to read or watch the news anymore - it's all too terrible." But I remember at different times in my life, wondering if the killing would end - In Ireland, the bombings throughout the UK, then Bosnia, Kosovo. And somewhere along the line, it was as if the terror just wore itself out and was ready for peace efforts. But some places, some situations never seem to blow out. The Crusades come to mind ...

  5. Beautifully-written and nuanced response --

  6. from Jacqueline: Thank you very much for your comment, "Teabird" - one should write from the heart on these matters.

  7. Jacqueline,
    Eloquently said and beautifully written. We are reminded that we have the right to express our opinions. Your story about Malala (sp?) reminded me of when Rushdie was threatened by fundamentalists.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts,

    1. from Jacqueline: And thank you for your comment, Diana. That right of free expression is priceless, especially when one thinks of the many places where there is no such freedom. We must now be vigilant so that our freedoms are not curtailed through fear.

  8. i feel like your mum. i don't like watching the news or readind the papers any more. many (too many) years ago there was still hope that this madness might end some day. as you mentioned, ireland and the uk bombings - and we were right in the thick of it - there usually was a warning-call to the police beforehand with enough of time to evacuate the shops, stations or streets. we all were caught in some of them and, of course, we were scared. but compared to what is happening nowadays, it all seems like a joke of some sort. the hatred and violence has no end...... ever!

  9. from Jacqueline: Oh Sybille, I remember those days so well! When we were in London, my husband asked why he couldn't find anywhere to put some wastepaper. I pointed out that during the IRA bombing years the cans were removed from stations and public places, as they were perfect receptacles for bombs. And that's also why I have no problem with the number of CCTV cameras around in London and other cities - I'm not doing anything wrong, but they help to identify people who are! But as you say, this kind of assassination, without warning and with such dreadful barbarity is terrible - though, frankly, who could have seen the dead people and horses in Hyde Park, or the fatalities after the Regent's Park bandstand bombing and not thought about the terrible barbarity.

  10. of course you are right, jackie. there were far too many fatalities even back then. luckily, with the help of big brother things have calmed down to some extent.

  11. I was heartened at the overwhelming turnout in Paris, protesting for the right to free expression. But so deeply saddened at the bombing. It's hard to imagine the mindset of terrorists. How like a prison the life must be if the view is so narrow that all opposing views must be silenced.