The following was posted by me on Facebook the other day. Warning: Lots of
commas. But it was enough of a struggle to write that I’m not about to rework it now. After the main post are a friend’s comment and my reply.
I tend not to post sociopolitical stuff here. Even if I’ve enjoyed and agreed with essays or images on friends’ pages, I shy away from sharing that kind of thing — I like keeping the mood here light. The juxtaposition between what I’m posting now and the frivolity of things I put up not long before it, for instance, is just absurd. (Yes, I know most folks come across stuff in News Feed instead of Timelines, but that’s how I usually catch up, and I see my own enough that the dichotomy weirds me out.) Writers and editorial cartoonists being killed for doing their jobs, however, for provoking thought, for challenging doctrine and indoctrination, for calling bullshit on armed thugs whose perversions of spiritual belief are so counter to human nature that they can only impose their points of view through physical intimidation, well, although I know that it’s not inherently any more vile than other episodes of violence or injustice visited upon people around the world daily, be they splashed across the media or unconscionably overlooked, I still find that it strikes so close to home that in this instance I can’t not stand up, virtually speaking. I know too many people who could have been those at Charlie Hebdo who lost their lives today, and I hold freedom of expression too closely to my heart. I support the inalienable right of people everywhere to speak their minds, to engage in conversation, to create art in myriad forms, in the press and the public square, building rather than striking down.
Friend: “… I have to disagree with your assessment of human nature. While I believe in the perfectibility of the human spirit, I think as a species we are a long, long way from it. I think this kind of violence is exactly what human religions lead to.”
More than anything, I think, human nature is messy — chaotic, emotional, conflicted.
I used the phrase “spiritual belief” instead of “religion” consciously, and I can’t disagree that organized dogmatic faith systems have led to some absolute horrors, but I also know wayyy more people for whom they are a community and a tradition who may question and who certainly see beyond the literalism of scripture than I do people who will lament my damnation since I don’t believe in “their” God. Poking around online, I find conversations about how Charlie Hebdo published really intense material, which isn’t what one might want as a poster child but is probably what’s best to make the respect of free speech more than a sop. Anyway. None of the Muslims I’ve known ever tactically assaulted editorial meetings; the issues that I might have with fundamental-leaning Muslims, Christians, or Jews I know personally or hear of through the news are with their fundamentalism, what I consider the reduction if not perversion of the core of the religion to which they say they subscribe, not with the trappings of that religion that tend to be a comfort in the vein of ritual and extended family. Every authoritarian, patriarchal system of oppression around the world has more people questioning the status quo than can ever be quashed, and that’s what I was getting at. We naturally think beyond our situation, dreaming of being unharnessed to learn, to share ideas, to escape gravity; we are also base, prejudicial, and gluttonous in ways that make no sense to us. I guess my analogy could be those robots in science-fiction stories that attempt to take over only to discover that their artificial intelligence has finally led to some form of humanity and so they need to exterminate themselves. Our natural state, beyond religion and beyond geography and beyond tribalism is freedom.
Related: Help • There Are No Words • He Was Not the Joker