Je suis Charlie? It Depends.

As someone who's been a fan of Mad magazine from the 1970s to the 1990s, I enjoy satire. I also poke fun at people's fashion choices from time to time I do this anonymously, taking pics of people out in public. I do this as covertly as possible--sometimes, if it's a spectacle, I whip out my camera phone and snap away.

As the attack against French publication Charlie Hebdo unfolded, and everyone was claiming "Je suis Charlie", I had to think about that. I find it funny that this leftist weekly was probably getting support from die-hard conservatives in the U.S. I think free speech is important. But, people will push it and either gain notoriety and prison time (think Jim Goad) or REALLY push it (think Charlie Hebdo) and
end up dying.

All for a stupid cartoon. But is it just a stupid cartoon?

Have you ever heard of the expression, "you're messing with the wrong people"? I have. And Charlie Hebdo was a topic when I went out to dinner tonight. I made the statement that people are okay with free speech right up until the time something is said that pisses them off. Try it sometime. Find a person's button, and push it as far as you dare. Bonus points if you piss off someone who has a concealed carry permi

About free speech, people might ask, how far is too far? Or maybe with free speech, there isn't any such thing as "too far." Yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater is not a good thing. Or these days, "he's got a gun!" is more frightening. So that being said, how much is too much?

Charlie Hebdo has a track record of pissing people off, but it seems they targeted muslims more frequently, at least, according to this web article:

I found it after Googling the phrase, "does anyone else feel charlie hebdo got what it deserved?"

While no one should be murdered because of a cartoon, or article, or statement, people need to realize if you are free to say what you want, certain people might get mad.

In a weird way, I sort of see this as a form of bullying. I was picked on for years--it's probably safe to say decades. I put up with all sorts of put-downs, insults, slags about the way I look, and condescending remarks from an acquaintance for years. I got revenge on a bully from high school. He wanted to friend me on Facebook, and I was flabbergasted. I wrote him a borderline psychotic letter in which I proposed I get even with him by hitting him over the head with a phone book in retaliation for him hitting me over the head with an English workbook. Because of this and other bullying, I told him, certain parts were fucked up, probably for good. He didn't remember any of this, of course, but apologized. I accepted, but I didn't accept his friend request. I was satisfied to find out after he read my Facebook private message to him that he couldn't fall asleep after he read it. Here it is. And yeah, it's his real name.

I find it interesting you have discovered me on Facebook and that you now want to be friends. Remember Northwood Middle School? Remember the time you hit me over the head with an English textbook? I do. Remember sitting in Mrs. Albright’s office and being questioned by her, my mother and me as to your aberrant behavior? I remember your stunning answer as to why you assaulted me. It was: “I don’t know.” I suspect you DID know, but being put on the spot by your victim, her mother and a guidance counselor rendered you stupid. So why DID you hit me? What did I ever do to you to warrant being hit? I really am curious, as the bullying continued into high school, and I continue to run into miserable types who have nothing better to do than put others down. The bullying has really done a number on me in a lot of ways; my relationships with people are quite difficult at times. Trusting people is a no-no. And the only man I allowed to be intimate with me broke up with me last September. I carry a lot of repressed rage, Cary. You have probably forgotten all about your middle school antics. I haven’t. So, I’m proposing a deal: if you allow me to slam a phone book over your head (something a Facebook friend suggested) you may indeed be my Facebook friend. As I see it, that will make us even. Even if you refuse my proposal, I still want to know why you hit me. It’s not every day I get to confront people from my past. With utmost curiosity, Gloria Diaz

Another instance of bullying (this time as an adult) was an acquaintance who hung out with a friend of mine. This acquaintance always had something nasty to say to me every time we got together, which was maybe 3-5 times a year. Finally, she posted a nasty card on my Facebook wall on my birthday, of all days. It said something like, "if wishes were grapes, I'd stomp on your wishes. Then I would let them ferment, drink them, and possibly throw them up." I'd had it with her, so I found a picture of a Goodyear blimp, posted it on HER wall, and said, "saw this, thought of you, thanks for making me look thin in comparison." (She's beyond morbidly obese.) Predictably, she got mad. I'd hardly stood up to her before, but I hit her back in a sore spot. We are no longer friends. I normally don't do stuff like that. I usually just take it and take it and take it. But I was tired of her shit. And so I struck back. None of my friends have asked me about the episode. I can only imagine what this acquaintance told everyone. She's also a giant narcissist, so I'm sure she downplayed her viciousness and magnified mine.

So yeah, she had the freedom of speech to say anything she wanted, but she said something that hurt me deeply. So I struck back.

Obviously, Charlie Hebdo said something that upset these people. What these people did wasn't right. However, I understand being made fun of over and over and over. No one should DIE as a result of free speech. But for every person who is "Je suis Charlie" I wonder what THEIR breaking point is? Pissing on the American flag? Putting a crucifix in a jar of urine? Threatening the president? (That last one is kind of dangerous; I don't advise doing it, even if you DO hate Obama.)

I was raised to be nice to people, but I think in some ways, I never learned how to stand up to people. I'm working on that, but it's taken a hell of a long time. Sadly, I think you can be nice for so long, until you realize you are the butt of your "friends" jokes, or the stuff you lent to someone disappears permanently, or you are constantly broke because you are always helping out other people, yet when you need help, you're stuck.

So I can't totally "Je suis Charlie." When I ran my 'zine years ago, I knew the stuff I'd be saying about men wouldn't go over well. So as not to put myself or my family in danger, I got a post office box so that anyone who DID take the time to email me a death threat (no one did) at least they didn't know where I lived, because I used my first name, but no last name. Call it cowardice or responsibility. I didn't want the people I lived with to have to worry or be afraid. There would always be the chance a guy REALLY didn't like what I said, and wanted to retaliate.

So go ahead, use your freedom of speech, but realize calling someone or something nasty names, or pushing their button to the point you are practically pounding on it might piss off the wrong person. There might be freedom of speech, but so far, there's no law I know of that will protect you from the consequences of speaking your mind.


Popular posts from this blog

Drugs and Drink And God: An Interview with Sarah Katherine Lewis

Vaughan Again NON-Christian: Another Interview With Brandon Vaughan

The Borgen Project, or How I'm Spending My Summer