Saturday, January 10, 2015

True North on a Moral Compass

This one has been stewing all week.  So much has happened in the aftermath of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and so much has been said, that I needed to put down on paper how I truly feel.  It’s not easy.

You’d think it would be.  Sure, I sympathize with all of those who deplore what happened.  No one should have to die for what they believe in.  Fact is no one should have to die.  Yes, we all die, but taking a life is one of those supposedly sacrosanct acts that everyone agrees on.  Except we don’t, and that’s the problem.

I am not religious, yet I try to run my life my one of the oldest morality codes known - the Golden Rule (do unto others, etc.).  If you’re like most folks, Rule #6 in the Ten Commandments is familiar:  “Thou Shall Not Kill.”

Note that there is a period at the end of the sentence.  No asterisk.  No footnote.  It doesn’t say “Thou Shall Not Kill, Unless…”  It says don’t kill (or in some translations, don’t murder).  Period.

It doesn’t matter what the “good reason” you might have.  Don’t kill.  Pretty simple.

Except - you and I know that right off the top of our heads, we could think of a scenario or two where we might think, “But…there ARE exceptions.”  Sure - if someone is threatening a loved one, or you, and harm is imminent, and it’s either kill or be killed - sure, lots of you are nodding your heads.

Me too.  I’d love to say, “No, I would try to reason…”  Or maybe, “I would not kill, but stop them somehow - aim for their trigger finger…” (this is hysterical at my house as I have a vision issue that leaves me with lousy depth perception, so sighting a rifle is more dangerous to me than to anyone on the other end).  Still, I am saying that I might certainly harm someone if they were trying to harm me.  You might have some other scenarios that you could justify.

Without a doubt, I would not harm someone who drew a cartoon, no matter what the subject.  I would also not harm someone who was thinking about harming someone who drew a cartoon.  But we’re not there yet.

Go back to the “Thou Shall Not Kill” thought.  Go further, and say, “Thou Shall Not Harm.”  Now, we’re really screwed.  Because while we can all agree on the definition of “kill,” we can argue until the sacred cows come home about “harm.”

Certainly, there are those who could argue that a cartoon can harm.  I’d disagree. But here we are.

No one has a moral compass that points to true north.  We’re all a little off, some more so than others.  How we deal with that difference is why we’re here, and where we go from here defines us as human beings.

As for me…I think that one of the most important items in our arsenal to bring the world together is communication, and the idea of “free speech” is paramount.  As is understanding (which can’t occur without free speech, BTW).  This includes the use of humor, parody, and satire, both of which have been found to be powerful influences that aid in understanding.

I saw in awe and watched the outpouring of support immediately after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.  Across the world, people proclaimed “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie). I was not certain if I would be that brave, to continue to speak my mind in the face of a potential death sentence.

I now realize that I have no say as to how, and when, I die.  Therefore, I have no other choice but to speak. To not do so would be the death sentence.

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