Yesterday morning’s news from Paris has rocked me to my core. As I made my morning cup of Irish breakfast tea I heard the report on NPR: twelve people killed in a terror attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that has published controversial Muhammad cartoons.
Vicki Doudera here. It’s so horribly wrong on several levels. First – the taking of innocent lives – but second, the taking of those lives because the murderers were offended by free speech. Third – I’m not a scholar of world religions, but I’m pretty sure that Muhammad did not advocate murder as a way to solve problems. (Nor did Jesus, but I realize many wars have been waged on His behalf despite that, too.)
The French are beyond shocked. It’s the worst attack in their country since World War II. Several of those killed were household names, cartoonists who resonated very deeply with French culture. This is a wound – a big one.
I’m remembering my year of living in Paris, slogging up the stairs, fresh baguette in hand, to my little 4th floor apartment in Montmartre. I am heartsick for the city, for the people I remember, for their sense of trust and safety that has been shattered by this vicious act of terrorism.
And I feel a solidarity – not just with the grieving citizens of France, but with artists everywhere. Anyone who dares take up the pen, whether to draw cartoons, shape stories, paint pictures, or express an opinion, is putting themselves, just like those who worked for Charlie Hebdo, in the line of fire. I may write crime stories that seem on the surface to be innocuous, and yet they undoubtedly have the power to offend someone, somewhere. My last book dealt with the growth of a shadowy secret service in Russia. The facts are true, woven into fiction. Could they offend? Could some twisted mind read Deal Killer and want to do me harm?
The answer – for anyone who dares write more than drivel – is yes. We are all Charlie, we are all united, we all must stand up for free speech and against measures that “offend” this or that group. We may not always like what we see or read, but that is the cost of living in a free society, one which allows every voice – no matter how offensive – to be heard.
Vive la liberté. Pick up your pen and write.