Bullets can’t stop pen.
“We are free! We are Charlie!” I chanted along with thousands of other people as we walked the streets of Paris this past Sunday, January 11th, 2015. It felt like I was in the heart of free expression. On Monday, January 12th, every newspaper and magazine filled with words such as “Liberty will beat terrorism, live liberty and free expression…”
The day of the Parisian attacks was confusing for me. My phone was blowing up for the few following days.
“Are you okay? What do you think? This has to do with your field of study, you probably have a big opinion about the whole free expression ideal. What’s your opinion? Stay safe”.
What were my thoughts on the attack? What did I, a young want to be journalist, believe about this freedom of expression?
I started off with these following thoughts that I tweeted.
This was my anger and my sadness embedded into one the day of the shooting. I couldn’t comprehend. I started questioning the idea of free expression for a while… I wanted to yell “I believe in freedom but with it comes a responsibility!” I felt like Charlie Hebdo itself disrespected a whole community, but they did not, in any way, shape or form deserve what they got for it. They were merely doing what they believed was funny, and this was their way of also spreading their ideas, which to me is a fundamental human value.
It took me little time after I arrived to realize that France would be the best place to study true journalism. As I skimmed through multiple newspaper’s and magazine’s headlines (my host family buys a ton), I realized the French know much more about the world than what American headlines feed their population. Controversial? France lives for that. France is a country that used controversial photos (like Charlie Hebdo) back before the French Revolution, helping make the king’s image and popularity fall. This was the country that produced Voltaire, who said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it“.
Freedom of speech is one of the rights people should be able to hold since the day they are born, whether you agree with what one has to say or not. Without freedom of speech, marches like the one held in Paris this weekend, the Civil Rights March in Washington, protests on wars and revolutions for better governments would never have occurred.
Sure, freedom of speech comes with the fact that things are going to be printed, said, drawn and animated that a certain group of people will not agree with. Some say to turn a blind eye but I say, if you do not agree then you have a right to challenge those ideas. This is the foundation of how ideas and messages are born, spread and challenged.
That is why we should all be Charlie.