Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Attack on Satire

Writing is big.

Writing is important.

People died today because they were writers.

I remember learning what satire was during my sophomore year in college.  We were assigned "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope, a poem that I still love and think about to this day.  In it, he talks about the artificial "beautifications" the aristocratic women applied every day.  He talked about how their wigs hid mice and other vermin.  He talked about the yellow stains of their undergarments.  He talked about the powders and the oils and the corsets and the odors - oh did he talk about the odors.  It is a lengthy poem and one that is full of many gems and garish detail and many mocking allusions to the upper classes of the society in which he was living and working.  I sometimes think to myself that I am perpetuating that same understanding of "putting on one's face" before I leave the house.  I've been told that I don't wear any makeup - or they notice when I have put on a little bit more eye shadow than normal.  In truth, it takes about twenty minutes to apply the undereye concealer masking the circles I have been cursed with since the tender age of twelve, the evening powder that hides any imperfections and smooths out sun damages, scars, etc.  We put on deodorant, hairspray, mascara, hair extensions, lipstick, lip gloss, whiten teeth, bronze forehead and cheekbones and collar bones and dab perfume.  All a mask - all a costume - all an elaborate rouse for the day.  I think about Mr. Pope even now and again as I go through my own "soft Transition," so that "we repair" all of the damages done the night before.

For those of you that might not know, the ol' Oxford English Dictionary defines "satire" as:

"The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

Today, in France, twelve people died at the hands of Islamic extremists who had taken offense at the satirical drawings and articles about Muhammad and their religion.  Ten of them were staff at Charlie Hebo, a French newspaper that had suffered many other threats and attacks for their work previously.
Seeing this breaking story on the televisions hung above the cardio equipment at my gym as Spotify blared a random playlist titled "HIIT Workout" I was shocked and dumbfounded.  Even now, I cannot bring to mind any other violent attacks such as these in the past other than perhaps John Lennon.  I cannot understand or comprehend the desire to kill another human being based upon a cartoon drawing in a magazine with less than 200,000 subscribers.  I had not even heard of Charlie Hebo before this morning and I doubt many others around the world had not either.  But I guarantee that they will know the name now.  They may not remember it, another flashy story or tragedy or injustice will take its place in a month or a week or perhaps even tomorrow.  But this story struck me personally.

They were writers.

They were working on something that they believed in and doing it for very little money and a great deal of danger and risk.  Here in America and there in France, we no longer have the very real threat of censored reading, writing, living, believing.  We can pretty much do and say and think whatever we want as long as it isn't hurting anyone.  There is no Gestapo around the corner waiting for us after we have said what we think about Obama or Miley Cyrus (did I even spell her name right?  I don't care.)  However, today's massacre stands as a reminder that words have meaning.  Work and words and writing has value.  We are not here for long, there is no guarantee, but believe in what you do.  Stand up for it.  Leave your mark and waste no time.  There will always be those that are offended or enraged or become violent because of what you say and think and do.  But that shouldn't stop you - because it might offer some liberation and bravery to others that had not thought to speak up before they heard your voice.

Here's to speaking up.

Here's to those who fell this morning in a board room, probably joking around, drinking stale coffee and brainstorming on new ways to be clever and meaningful and informative.

Here's to the one's who were not afraid.

"Je n'ai pas de gosses, pas de femme, pas de voiture, pas de credit. C'est peut-etre un peu pompeux ce que je vais dire, mais je prefere mourir debout que vivre a genoux."

"I don't have children, nor a wife, nor a car, nor credit. This may be a bit pompous, what I'm about to say, but I'd rather die standing that to live on my knees."

-Stephane Charbonnier

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