Like many people, I’ve been trying to make sense of January 7, 2015.
Hearing about the killings in Paris at the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo became a head-shakingly bizarre moment. The victims–editor Stéphane Charbonnier, cartoonists Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski, Philippe Honore and Jean Cabut, writer Bernard Maris, columnist Elsa Cayat, copy editor Mustapha Ourrad, police officer Ahmed Merabet, police bodyguard Franck Brinsolaro, maintenance worker Frederic Boisseau, and visitor Michel Renaud–were murdered because the weekly publication was an equal-opportunity offender, satirizing religious figures that included (but were not limited to) the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Charlie Hebdo made regular sport of the prophet. He was depicted in numerous cartoons, which is forbidden by some interpretations of the Muslim faith. Extremists within al Qaeda took issue (regardless of the fact that Charlie Hebdo also lampooned things those extremists dislike, such as Jews and feminism) and put Charbonnier on its hit list in March 2013 for “crimes against Islam.”
As editor, Charbonnier had been threatened before. Charlie Hebdo‘s offices were torched in a firebomb in 2011, but no one was hurt. Charbonnier had been under police protection for some time, and fellow victim Franck Brinsolaro was assigned as his bodyguard.
As the attackers called out the names of their targets and went about their bloody work, witnesses reported that they shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is the greatest”).
No, he’s not. Not if cartoons make worshippers do things like that.
Charlie Hebdo will publish over a million copies of its next issue because, like its now-deceased editor, it will not be stopped by “idiot extremists” in practicing the right to free speech.
At least there’s that.
But there’s more to try to make sense of lately. What about another attack on free speech, the Sony hack that led to the film The Interview being pulled from theatres because theatre owners got scared of attacks? What about other senselessness, like cops strangling innocent civilians without consequence or shooting to death unarmed suspects in the streets? What about calls to investigate the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of aboriginal women across Canada being ignored by a government that says the issue “isn’t really high on (its) radar”?
How can people all over the world act like this? Is there a connection? Is there some other force working its way into our culture, influencing these people, their actions, and tainting our world?
It’s the single unifying thread that links all of these events and threatens our culture, our way of life, and our species’ survival. This thread, quite simply, is the root of all evil.
All of these people–the politicians indifferent to our population, the racist cops, the North Korean leadership, the Muslim extremists–are assholes.
Stupid? Hacking a studio website and making death threats over a crappy movie.
Mean and contemptible? That covers shooting innocent civilians, by either religious extremists or racist police.
Incompetent? That covers uncaring governments and cops who use outdated take-down techniques banned by the NYPD over twenty years ago.
Shitty people doing shitty things. And where does shit come from?
Now, every once in a while, we can all be accused of acting like assholes, or even being assholes for selfish, shitty behaviour. As much as we have potential to be good to one another, we also have an incredible capacity for wide-scale contempt. We often shit on one another, but most of that shit is small-time stuff that can be made up for. Thus, we’re assholish, but not full assholes.
Everyone in the situations I’ve referenced above? Total, proud, drain-on-our-world assholes.
We can do better. We have to do better.
If there’s one new year’s resolution worth keeping, it’s fighting assholes; be it the asshole within ourselves, the asshole who screws us over in our daily lives, or the asshole who threatens to kill us because we dare to celebrate the pursuit of love, the freedom of speech, and the rooting out of hypocrisy the world over.
Otherwise, I look forward to you getting yours from the nearest Charlie Hebdo.