All Human Life Is Sacred

I have a lot of thoughts about the events in Paris (France)[1] and the response to them around the world. I am sure that my thoughts have a lot of reactivity and restimulation attached to them. But I have decided to go ahead and share my thoughts anyway, resisting the urge to hold on to them until I am sure that I have cleaned them up.  

All human life is sacred. I hold sacred the lives of people who do things that I find abhorrent. I fight for a society and a world that hold human life as sacred. No one, including the State (or the police in cities in the United States), has a right to take a human life (I oppose capital punishment!). I hold all human life as sacred, including the lives of those who have themselves taken a life. Alas, I must also include people who say things that I don’t like.  

Freedom is a precious thing, worth fighting for. Freedom is well worth the wrestle in our own minds and among our varied minds to determine what freedom means. We are in agreement that there are limits inherent in the exercise of freedom. I have a right to swing my fist, and your nose has a right to not be hit. This brings me to the questions with which I want to wrestle:

  • Does our freedom of speech include the right to hate speech? Or only to hate speech spoken by members of specific groups?
  • Does freedom of the press include the right to publish hatred toward any group, or only hatred of certain groups toward certain others?
  • All human life is sacred. But are artists’ (cartoonists’) lives more sacred than other lives? The Islamic militant group Boko Haram[2] killed upwards of two thousand people in Nigeria during the week of the horrific events in Paris—two thousand children, women, and men. Are those lives less important than the lives of the twelve cartoonists who were killed in Paris? Is the loss of those two thousand lives less significant and deserving of less attention, mourning, outrage, commentary, because it happened in Nigeria, not in Paris, and not in a magazine office, and the victims might not be artists (cartoonists)?
  • Everybody makes decisions with an understanding of the potential consequences of those decisions. And we often make decisions to do what we consider the right thing even when the potential outcomes can be terrifying. Are we then responsible for those terrifying outcomes because we made the decisions that triggered them? Specifically, since the editors at Charlie Hebdo decided to publish cartoons that had the possibility—even the probability—of ending in violence, do they share any responsibility for the murder of their colleagues?

The French Prime Minister has declared, “We are at war against radical Islam.” Can you imagine the President of the United States, after the Oklahoma City bombing[3] in which 168 people were killed, or after the killings at Sandy Hook[4] in which twenty children and six adults were killed, declaring, “We are at war against angry white men”? Or should such a declaration have been made after Columbine[5] or any one of many mass murders, including the shooting of Kent State students by U.S. National Guardsmen?[6] Thirteen people were shot and killed at the University of Texas (USA) by a former U.S. Marine. Should we declare war on former U.S. Marines?  

I mourn for women whose lives are taken by Islamic fundamentalists because they decide to drive a car, or get an education, or divorce their husbands. I mourn for lives lost because of poverty and disease and because Western governments ignore and fail to respond to threats that are made to those outside the Western world.  

I gag at the racialized, hypocritical hyperbole following the events at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, spoken by world leaders and other people who have seized on the events as a way to push their own narrow, oppression-riddled agenda.

I am wearied by the responses of people who consider the murders at Charlie Hebdo in a pitifully narrow frame, without the larger global context in which they occurred.

I remind others and myself that this is a good time to listen. All sorts of people want and need to be listened to as they share their fears, their trauma (indeed their impulse to gag), and their grief, along with their hopes for a better world.  

Barbara Love
International Liberation Reference
Person for African-Heritage People
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of wide world change


[1] On January 7, 2015, in Paris, France, two Islamic militants killed twelve people in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had published a number of disrespectful cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. In the following two days, another Islamic militant killed five more people in Paris, including four whom he had taken hostage in a kosher supermarket.
[2] From January 3 to 7, 2015, members of Boko Haram, a militant group in Nigeria that wishes to establish Sharia law (the religious laws based on the Koran), killed over two thousand people in the Nigerian town of Baga.
[3] A terrorist bomb attack in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, on April 19, 1995, by two white men, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols
[4] The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, USA, in which the perpetrator was Adam Lanza, a young white man
[5] The Columbine High School shooting, on April 20, 1999, in Columbine, Colorado, USA, in which two white students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve other students and a teacher
[6] On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, in Ohio, USA, National Guardsmen, all white men, shot and killed four university students at a protest against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00