Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mohammad and the Global Gang Bang

The attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was an irrational, awful, horrific act of violence and the staff of Charlie Hebdo made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure that we can all say what we want, where we want, when we want. In the name of those lost artists, we must boldly stand with them and demand that they can continue to say whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The free expression of ideas should never come to this.

Charlie Hebdo has been slaughtering sacred cows with joyful aplomb since 1970, and I applaud them for it. I love satire – without the opportunity to laugh at this absurd circus, I'd have lost my mind by now. Not only does satire prove cathartic, but it's one of the most effective ways to bring about real political change and, thus, it is an absolutely indispensable tool for a free-thinking democracy.

But I've also seen the caricatures of Mohammad that provoked the terror and, of course, I've now seen the cover that Charlie Hebdo published in response to the terror. Simply put, the images are ugly, racist caricatures. The fact that Charlie Hebdo is free to publish ugly, racist caricatures of a major religion's Prophet (over and over again) seems to be its entire point – courageous, perhaps, but not funny.

So, I stand beside Charlie…but I am not Charlie. Publishing images of Mohammad is a useful and even necessary exercise to protect our universal right to free speech -- publish, publish, publish until it is a futile, hopeless effort to suppress ideas through violence. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The publishing of Mohammad's caricature is reminiscent of 1989's art piece, Piss Christ. Piss Christ was an image of a crucifix submerged in urine. That piece offended a different religion's sensibilities. No one was murdered, but representatives of our federal government fought like hell to censor it. In fact, many of the Republican pundits who now rally around Charlie Hebdo are the same Republicans who used Piss Christ as an excuse to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. And don't get me started on all the hypocritical leaders coming to France, honoring the right to free speech with one hand, while suppressing it in their own countries with the other.

I've been avoiding the news coverage this time -- I know what it is. As with 9/11, legitimate grief that came out of the tragedy is being fetishized and exploited by the media. Once the ground is fertile with fear and anger, the grief will morph into something ugly. After all, Westerners have been sitting around with a collective case of blue balls for quite some time – the media feigns respect, but really, it doesn't like Islam – and neither do Westerners in general. Now, given the perfect excuse, the West is engaged in a global gang bang, forcefully spewing an ocean of white ejaculate onto three million ugly caricatures of Mohammad's face. More violence won't be far behind.

All I can say is I hope that the West feels like it's collective ball sack is sufficiently drained. Of the 1.6 billion Muslims, 1.599999999 are good, decent, moderate people just trying to get by. In Europe, as the newest and poorest minority, Muslims are the most common victims of hate crimes, not to mention the most common victims of fundamentalist Muslim violence throughout the world (see Boko Haram massacre - if you can find it). And, as with most Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc., moderate Muslims simply shrug when they see their Prophet demeaned and degraded, but it's still demeaning. It's still degrading.

None-the-less, we all have the right to offend anyone and everyone we want. So go ahead and make Mohammad your profile picture on Facebook, but know that once the courageous context is forgotten, it will stand as nothing more than the ugly, racist, hurtful image that it is.