Charlie Hebdo & Our Right to Speak – Breaking Down My Stance

The Charlie Hebdo massacre has gotten people talking about a whole bunch of different things all at the same time…

So after reading a bunch of opinion pieces, I leaned back and shook my brain around to break things down and figure out where I stand on these issues. (Writing helps.)

#IAmAhmed fo sho.

Freedom of Speech gives people the right to offend. And I’m guessing that’s where people start feeling iffy. It is when statements are extremely vile and completely opposed to the norm that we start seeing where people really stand in terms of respecting people’s right to express themselves. So, are you for it or not?

I am. 100%. Which is why #IAmAhmed for sure; I can be absolutely offended, rattled, even disgusted by someone’s statement and I will still stand by everyone’s right to speak – maybe even die for it.

Let’s keep in mind that the debate on our right to speak is apart and separate from the debate on what are socially acceptable and polite things to say.

Standing by the right to speak doesn’t mean you agree with all statements or condone rude behavior. And it doesn’t mean people should not be held accountable for what they say, which is why you can be fined for libel or get fired for making racist remarks at work. There is also such a thing as verbal abuse and shouting, “Bomb!” on an airplane, which, people have to realize, is
separate and different from the ridiculing and challenging of ideas – including strongly held beliefs.

Jail time or, geez, DEATH should NOT be a consequence of telling people what you think of a religion. Which is why, even though I probably wouldn’t agree with all of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, I would still say #JeSuisCharlie .

Am I or am I not Charlie?

I’ve seen people expressing their condemnation of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons saying #IAmNotCharlie . I respect their opinion, naturally. Their cartoons are blatantly offensive. There are people that have called Charlie Hebdo racist and bigoted. I’m not sure where I stand on that yet. What I am certain of, though, is that the statement “Charlie Hebdo is a racist and bigoted publication” is up for debate. People can agree or disagree, then exercise their right to freely discuss.
Again, sadly, it has to be stated that whether or not Charlie Hebdo is guilty of bigotry, physical attacks, with murder as its pinnacle, is  never acceptable.

With what I’ve seen thus far, I am still on the #IAmCharlie side of the fence. Why? Because humanity seems light years away from accepting and respecting basic human rights, like the right to life, to speak, to be educated, etc.

And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Charlie Hebdo has brought forth a massive debate on our freedom to speak – what it means and where the limit lies, if there are any limits at all.

The Charlie Hebdo publication was a reminder that, to this day, there is a need to understand further, as well as promote, our basic right to speak. We, as a community of people, haven’t agreed on a Magna Carta… Which is sad and quite pathetic when you think about it. The UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It’s 2015!

I won’t go into other rights, because that would be a whole ‘nother lengthy post. I’ll stick with our right, as humans, to speak. So…

Before we debate what are impolite, racist, insensitive, hateful, or rude things to say… Can’t we all agree that we have a right to say them in the first place?

Apparently not. The debate lives on.

Curtailing people's right to speak based on what is disrespectful or offensive is a very slippery slope. Take Raif Badawi's current case in Saudi Arabia, for example.

Here's a video narrating, quite beautifully, the story of human rights.
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