A Lament for the Charlie Hebdo Murders
By John Graham
January 8th, 2015
The mass murder of twelve cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo has left the world in shock. What is amazing to me is that anyone of any faith could care less what a satirical magazine has to say. Everything they say is satire. So, why pay attention? Apathy would be the better response and is the last thing a satirist wants to have happen – no one even caring what they write.
To kill cartoonists because they have defamed someone you revere is appalling. Reminds me of Shakespeare’s famous line, “Me thinketh thou protesteth too much.” Usually, when we do that – when we protest too strongly – we have doubts. So, we try to overpower the opposition. Instead, it only points to the uncertainty we have about our position. A confident person would care less and may even be amused by his or her opponent. And, if it is satire, may laugh along with the satirist. Perhaps more to the point is whether or not the very faith system one professes encourages the murder of those who don’t hold to one’s position.
Sadly, the fact is most of the world religions have a history of doing this very thing. In every generation, “the faithful” have tried to silence those who don’t agree with them. They have demanded, “Convert or die.” My tribe (and maybe your tribe) has done this in the past even though our belief is that killing is wrong, a mortal sin.
Fortunately, the majority of citizens in every land have now come to respect those who hold beliefs contrary to their own. This ability is a sign of spiritual, emotional and psychological maturity. People who are secure in their beliefs can tolerate ambiguity and ambivalence. They do not demand everything and everyone agree with them or their beliefs. They realize everything is not black and white; there are truly more than fifty shades of gray.
Life is far more complex than meets the eye and wisdom says there is at least some truth in almost every position people may take. So, rather than fight or kill, most have learned it is wise to listen to the other point-of-view. Who knows, we may even be convinced the other person is right and we are wrong in the issue at hand. Now, wouldn’t that be something?
As the decades pass, most of us realize we have changed our own beliefs over the years. We no longer believe much of what we stood for when we were younger. We may not even believe what we believed last year or last week. New understanding comes to us almost daily and we may even undergo a paradigm shift, radically alter our beliefs, and have our consciousness move to another level. Recognizing that our own beliefs are not set in concrete can give permission to allow others to change, as well.
Honoring the freedom of others to hold opposing views does not make us weak; rather, it makes us stronger as a people and as a nation. Only then can we truly celebrate the remarkable creativity and diversity of humankind and not demand that everyone agree with our point-of-view. Perhaps one day we may even lay down our weapons and think of war no more.
But for now, let us hold the twelve who died and their families and all who are grieving in our thoughts and prayers.
John K Graham, President