It is a powerful statement meant to show solidarity with a group. In the aftermath of a horrific attack on journalists, free speech, individuals, religious freedom, peace, and intellectual thought, sentiment runs high. As humans we react to horrors with two great emotions: bonding to those near us and aggression to those who we perceive caused the horror.
Eleven journalists and one policeman were killed in Paris by Islamist terrorists. The world reacted with both pain and anger. In our pain the phrase “Je Suis Charlie” was populated across the Twitterverse and traditional media outlets to demonstrate the support for the fallen, but also for the publication Charlie Hebdo and the recognition that the victims represent all of us.
An attack on civil liberties, whether by a government, a religious organization or a crazed gunman is an attack on us all. It is our duty to stand together and rise up to those who would take away the freedoms we all enjoy.
In 2008 as the Proposition 8 campaign was in full swing I wrote a column criticizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (aka the “Mormons”) attack on gay marriage in California. It garnered a tremendous amount of email and comments to both me and this paper. I feel and felt that it was crucial to the survival of a free republic that believes in the separation of church and state, to stand up vociferously to the religious zealots who pushed their bigoted views on our citizenry.
At no time was I worried that anyone would be killed over the statements made on either side of the debate. Heated arguments were certainly had by me with members of the LDS church. My strong position in favor was equaled by the strong position of others who felt, and may still feel, that two men getting married would set untold horrors upon the children.
Reasonable people differ on issues. Sometimes dramatically.
Murdering people because you have a different view of what is “right” or what some non-corporeal deity is alleged to have said is patently wrong. Today we live in a world that contains those who believe that bombs are entrance tickets to paradise.
Religion is a fraught topic for most people. If you have a religion you are generally taught that those who don’t believe as you do are wrong. If you don’t have a religion, you probably don’t like those who do. The religious folks tend to be condescending to those who don’t believe; it’s all part of that “we’re special and getting to the afterlife” rap.
The Je Suis statement is meant to take us beyond religious differences. It is supposed to transcend the artificial barriers we set up: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Arabic, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Satanic, non-believers, rednecks, Faeries and more. The momentary solidarity of Je Suis is small comfort in a world where the biggest threat to our existence, is us.
We have a planet in distress. We have ecological systems in freefall. We have rampant ignorance in this, supposedly the most advanced society. We have people who spend millions of dollars to subjugate their fellows rather than admit that they are equal in matters as individual as love and marriage.
Humanity is in dire need of a unifying force. Instead we segment ourselves with political parties, Green versus Republican versus Democrat. We wage “war” on drugs, poverty, homelessness, affordable housing, and in the end all we have done is alienate each other, kill a few more people over interpretations of writings that are hundreds of years old and destroy the natural beauty of the planet in the name of progress.
I don’t know what the Islamist terrorists of the Charlie Hebdo killings wanted to accomplish — I imagine it was commentary on commentary — but what they did accomplish was to create a unifying force, however brief it may last, of the world against extremism. In doing so, they’ve proven that humanity can come together to fight a common enemy.
I believe that we need to come together more, around bigger issues than whose deity runs things. We need to lose the qualifier, and come to accept each other as we are.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-664-9969. You can also follow him on Twitter.