The new cover of Charlie Hebdo is out and you’ve seen it. It’s poignant. I won’t post it here. It’s not that I don’t feel defiant, or sorry for the mindless violence and waste of life that touched Paris recently. I just don’t feel – for lack of a better term – the right to post that. I’ve simply got things too good.
As an American in a relatively progressive part of the country, with a liberal education and technical resources, I enjoy almost unqualified freedom of expression. So for me to act like I should don my beret and join my fellows at the barricades would be … disingenuous and impertinent.
I should acknowledge that my freedom of speech has been defended with some struggle, though let’s not invoke “The Troops,” if you don’t mind. God bless them one and all, but no. The First Amendment protects us against censorship by our own government. One might argue that the government is protecting the people from the government by fighting extremism abroad, which is a threat to our way of life, including our rights to defend ourselves against our government. And I would say give it a rest, Mr. Cheney.
Freedom of expression in the United States has been defended by journalists, writers and artists, pornographers, outcasts and misfits, whose books have been banned and who have spent time in jail for defending their sources. They’ve had to stand against monoliths ranging from the US government to the local PTA; ignorant jackasses bent on keeping the likes of Mark Twain and John Green out of the schools.
Sometimes the persistent leakage of industrial grade Stupid in this country raises quite an unpleasant smell. But the air is pretty fresh where I live, is my point. So my moral imperative to speak out against censorship, though incontestable, does not give me license to imply that I’m one of the oppressed.
Have I digressed?
Then by way of condolence and sympathy, I offer a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi, and a link to see – free gratis – the stained glass of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. I was there once, you know, and it was beautiful.
Je Suis Charlie, frères et sœurs.
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.”
The poem, read by Coleman Barks