Je Suis Charlie – The Fear Mongers

16 Jan

je suis charlie

The Fear Mongers

By L. Stewart Marsden

Throughout the history of mankind, fear has driven many to severe actions in attempts to secure power. Those community members that criticize, examine and challenge the status quo have been imprisoned, beaten or worse. Their writings banned and burned.

When dictatorships come to power, censorship and the removal — one way or other — of the intelligentsia is part of the process. Fahrenheit 451 scenarios.

Here are the titles of a few books banned in the US:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Influential Southern plantation owners muscled the book off shelves for a while. Russia also banned it. Stowe’s novel became the 2nd best-selling book in the 19th century. The Bible was #1.

Charlotte’s Web was banned in Kansas because talking animals was blasphemous.

Where the Wild Things Are. Leading child psychologist said Sendak’s character Max would send mixed messages about not disciplining children. It was banned nationwide during the first year of its release.

The Wizard of Oz.

Moby Dick.

Click here for other banned books that might surprise you.

Freedom of speech is an arcane concept to many. And I daresay many throughout the world are not able to exercise it for various reasons and because of multiple threats. The definitions of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion” are broadly and narrowly interpreted throughout the world.

In the past 30 days fear mongers have flexed their muscles in both Paris as well as in the US.  What the mongers reacted to were — to them — blatant insults to their beliefs or nation.

Guess what?

It ain’t the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.

In 1987 American artist Andres Serrano shocked much of our nation by taking an image of a crucifix submerged in his own urine. “Piss Christ” was no sublime statement. It was an in-your-face piece of what Serrano called “art.”

In the late 60s and into the 70s, Vietnam War protesters draped themselves in and burned the American flag.

Countries throughout the world have burned effigies of several American presidents.

American and other cartoonists have lampooned world leaders through grotesque and exaggerated images of those men and women.

Southerners depicted Abraham Lincoln as a monkey.

The list of examples is endless.

What’s the point?

The point is, in America, we have freedom of speech. The right of assembly. The right to protest, to disagree. Serrano wasn’t jailed or executed for his photograph. Vietnam protesters did not violate any law when they donned or burned the American flag. American cartoonists are not summarily rounded up and trotted off to prison for their caricatures.

Do I agree with them? Not all. And, I hold a long list of beliefs and tenets that others do not. But I’m not going to shoot those who don’t agree. I’m not going to bomb their homes or places of work. Nor is our government. Because my views differ from others, I don’t expect to be shot or bombed by them, either.

Tolerance. I tolerate your right to hold views I might find offensive and contrary to those I have. In this country, I have the right to express my views, not to hit you over the head with my views and demand you recant and adopt my point of view. I have the right to vote my conscience. I have the right to publicly debate various issues.

Whenever I — or you — are so intimidated by those who do not agree with me or you that we abandon that right to disagree, we are in serious danger of losing our freedom.

Do YOU have power? Social power? Political power? Group power? Do you exercise that power to flatten those who do not agree with you? Maybe it’s in the workplace. Maybe it’s in your social groups. Maybe it’s in your household and family.

Are things about to change radically in America?

Duke University was castigated by Rev. Franklin Graham over its announcement that it would broadcast Muslim prayers on Fridays.

“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life, which is to worship God, and serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity,” said Imam Adeel Zeb, Muslim chaplain at Duke. “The collective Muslim community is truly grateful and excited about Duke’s intentionality toward religious and cultural diversity.”  

“This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission,” said Christy Lohr Sapp, the chapel’s associate dean for religious life. “It connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation.”

The announcement by Duke drew criticism from Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. He took to social media on Wednesday to express his views and urge Duke donors to suspend support.

“Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed,” he said on his Facebook page.  (

Within hours, Duke announced it was rescinding its earlier action.

I wrote on my Facebook yesterday:

Duke University Admin = Sony Executives = major cave-ins.
Intimidation comes in all shapes and sizes, folks.

My liberal son gave me a “like.” My quasi-conservative daughter apparently missed it.

It doesn’t matter whether the bullies who intimidate us over free speech or religion are Communists or Muslim radicals or the son of Billy Graham: the result is the same. It is the stuff that has been wielded over the centuries — Christians in the Crusades over Muslims; French Catholics over the Huguenots; Anabaptists; Nazi Germany over the Jews; yadda, yadda, yadda.

It resonates in our Capital. In Congress. In our leadership. In our schools. Bullies who intimidate — saying ‘you can’t say that’ and ‘you can’t believe that’ are virtually everywhere with “do it my way or hit the highway” mentalities.

It may look different, but it results in the same kind of suppression/oppression.

On NPR the other day, a guest on one of the news shows made the statement that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are basic rights world-wide, with freedom of religion having precedence over the former. I’m not sure those freedoms are basic world-wide.

But, they sure should be here in our country. And we as a nation should uphold others in the world when those rights are threatened by bullies, terrorists and other narrow-minded thugs.

You might not agree with my opinion. It might anger you. You very well may agree. My right to express my opinion is guaranteed. Franklin Graham has his right to call out what he sees as something nefarious. I’m not advocating supporters of The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association quit giving because I disagree with his right to express his opinion.

I believe Duke University has every right to open up religious expression to be inclusive. Perhaps the student body should weigh in. I was sad to see they caved in to Graham’s pressure. I guess the school’s defense is in question in places other than on the men’s basketball team.

Sony has the right to distribute a film that is critical of what is going on in the world, however distasteful.

It’s been a sad month for freedom. Someone needs to draw Uncle Sam with a tear streaming down his cheek as he holds up a copy of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Remember what Patrick Henry said.


 Note: the illustration was used by permission.

Note: the following is a video rebuttal of US President Obama’s past statements concerning the Islamic State from a former Muslim who grew up in Morocco and later converted to Christianity.  Click here for the video.



3 Responses to “Je Suis Charlie – The Fear Mongers”

  1. luhgina47 January 16, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    please comment on my blog posts its required for a grade in my web class. Thanks!

    • skipmars January 16, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      It’s now a footnote in the piece. Thanks.

  2. skipmars January 17, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Reblogged this on Writing Odds n Ends and commented:

    I have updated this piece by adding a video link to an address by a former Muslim turned Christian.

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