Let me begin by saying that I’m a French citizen. I just returned from spending two weeks in France visiting my father. To say that the Charlie Hebdo attacks affected me deeply is an understatement. I am deeply saddened by this act of violence, but I am also deeply saddened by our failure to acknowledge the active part that we all play in perpetuating it.
Last month we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr., and yet it seems that his most critical message, one that resulted in his assassination, has been forgotten. It seems ironic that a country that created a holiday around King’s birthday, one of only 11 federal holidays, should have completely disregarded King’s lesson of nonviolent resistance.
King taught us to resist evil without resorting to violence; to win the friendship and understanding of our opponents, instead of humiliating them; to not only refuse to shoot our opponents but to also refuse to hate them. He asked that we be motivated by love and understanding.
Most people, when criticized publicly, become defensive and suffer from injured pride, which rarely leads to an opening of heart and mind. When has public ridicule ever compelled someone to have a change of heart? Instead, it creates separation, resulting in more hostility.
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Charlie Hebdo did not violate a law – the right to free speech is one of the most critical tenants of democracy. But what was violated, was basic human decency.
I wonder why these talented cartoonists are using their formidable intellects to stunt our growth as a society and to perpetuate more hate, more anger and more separation. Should we not be using these resources to promote cooperation and peace?
There’s no denying that satire is a powerful form of communication. When used constructively, it can allow for great clarity and instigate important change. But with any form of power, comes the dire need for responsibility – and when a cartoon’s intended goal is to humiliate and shame – we have a problem.
Perhaps the Charlie Hebdo attack is providing us an opportunity to rethink the kind of world we want to live in: a world where we perpetuate hate and hostility or a world where we promote love and unity, peace and cooperation? Is there not a better use for our talent that furthers our shared vision for a peaceful world free of violence?
This isn’t an indictment of free-speech – this is a call to use its mighty power for good and for peace instead of for hate and separation.
We can sit here and play victim – or we can take responsibility for our part in this catastrophe – and grow from it – reflect on our actions and behaviors, and perhaps even take a moment to meditate on that which we want. Do we want peace? If so, are we willing to adjust our behavior to truly reflect that?
So I invite you to join me in taking us one step closer to the illusive Peace we all so long for. As King implored: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way and in its own time it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil.”
I am not Charlie. I am not derisive satire that humiliates and perpetuates separation. I am kindness and nonviolent resistance. I am peace.
Oriana Galardi-Este lives in Cedar Grove.