On January 7, 2015, a satirical magazine company called Charlie Hebdo was attacked by 3 terrorists. 12 people were killed. A global outpouring of support and solidarity rose up, with the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie which means “I am Charlie.”
Why “I Am Charlie” is So Important
Charlie Hebdo was attacked because of the content they published – satire comics that made fun of religion, politics and society. It was an attack on Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of speech. The statement “I am Charlie” is one of empathy and solidarity, because free speech is a human right of everyone.
But what if that speech was offensive? What if it criticized your values or belief system? Would you still defend that voice?
Let’s take an honest look at the content Charlie Hebdo published. It was crude and profane. The comics made a gross mockery of religions, politicians, and cultures. It’s offensive and disrespectful to a lot of people. I don’t agree with or encourage their particular method of voicing their opinions.
But here’s the thing – they have the right to do so. That’s catch 22 with free speech. It can heal or it hurt. Another hashtag trend started rising: #JeSuisAhmed. Ahmed was one of the police officers killed in the shooting. He was a Muslim, and died defending the very people who ridiculed his faith and culture.
What You Can Do To Ensure Freedom of Speech
Exercise Your Voice. Your thoughts and opinions matter. When you speak, you join the global discussion and help the write the story of humanity. The things that are most important to you need to be shared and heard.
Speak with Love. Free speech is yours, and you can use it in anyway you want. You can be loving or you can be hateful, that’s up to you. Consider love. It tells a much more compelling story.
Understand the Opposition. People with disagree with you. They may even mock you. But they are coming from somewhere. Understand where that place is and allow them their voice.
Defend Those You Disagree With. This is most difficult of all. It’s easy for us to rally behind the authors of Charlie Hebdo because of the horrible act violence against them. But if this had not happened, would you have been so quick to defend their voice, especially if it was against you?
I sure hope so. Because everyone’s voice matters.