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Je Suis Francais 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One again the oldest ally and friend of the United States has been attacked by terrorists. While the details about the attacker are still scarce, this much is know; an attacker drove a tractor trailer rig loaded with grenades,mweapons and othe ammunition through a crowd that was celebrating Bastille Day in the port city of Nice on the French Riviera. At least 80 people were killed and another hundred or more wounded in the attack. It was the third major terrorist attack in the past year and a half on our French allies and friends, and more than 200 French citizens have been killed and hundreds more wounded in these brutal attacks committed by people allied with DAESH, the so called Islamic State. While it is yet undetermined who committed this barbaric act, it shows all the characteristics of DAESH. 

These attacks, along with others in Belgium and other countries in the past two years are a change in strategy for DEASH. They are losing in Iraq and Syria, their dreams of a Caliphate are dying. So now they have returned to the time honored methods of other terrorist groups, striking soft targets outside the battle area, killing innocents simply to show that they are still powerful. 

But the are not. In a war of ideas they come up short, they want a iron fisted theocracy with no freedom, no dissent, no Liberty. They stand against the proposition in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence which says “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”  They stand in opposition to the national motto of France, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and no matter how many people they kill they cannot win, because their ideology is based on the proposition that they, and they alone represent God, and no one has any rights but them. History shows that their medieval and barbaric ideology is doomed to failure so long as people who believe in Liberty, equality, and fraternity do not give in to their terror. The same is true of any theocratic ideology of any religion. 

Unlike a lot of Americnas, I have always admired the French. They, like us are certainly not perfect, but they hold to same the ideals that we do. No king or queen, no state religion, but Liberty, equality, and fraternity. In 1958 when the people of France implemented their last Constitution, they adopted verbatim, Abraham Lincoln’s words from the Gettysburg Address as a “principle” into their own sacred instrument, which recites in Article II that the French Republic will be a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The French are the only other country in the world to put those words into their constitution. When I was watching the games of the Euro Cup, I was inspired to see members of the French National team, including men, people of color, whose families came from former French colonies in Africa signing Le Marseillaise at the top of their voices, proud to be Frenchmen. 


It is time to support our friends in France. It is time to stand against all forms of religious terror, and all who presume that their religion, no matter which one it is, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or whatever,  entitles them to to rule over others in the name of their God. 

I stand with France today. Je Suis Francais, today, I am French. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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I am Brussels 

   
 Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today in yet another brazen and brutal attack, the Islamic State again showed its true nature. I have a post about the details of the attack that will be up in the morning, but for now I can only say that I stand with the victims of today’s attacks. For me the way to stand with them is not just to protest, but to relentlessly pursue and destroy the leaders of DAESH and their foot soldiers until not a one is left to continue what they have been doing in the lands that they control, and the places that they and their allies kill innocents on a daily basis. 

  
Paris, Beirut, Paris (yes I said Paris twice), an Airliner in the Sinai, Mali, Istanbul, Anarka, Bahgdad, Mosul, Ramadi, and hundreds of other locations that most people do not know about or for that matter care about. 

  
The fact of the matter is that unless they are stopped, they will continue to do these things, and eventually they will kill hundreds of Americans to add to the thousands of others that they have brutally subjugated and killed in so many other places. 

  
Please to not give me the moral equivalent argument and how these attacks are the fault of everyone, especially Americans and Europeans, except the criminal thugs who commit them. Tell that to their victims in countries like Mali, Nigeria, and other places who have nothing to do with the United States or Europe. 

This my friends is war, and it will last for a very long time. Our children and grandchildren will be fighting it long after most of us are long gone. 

As for me, for whatever time I have left on this earth I will oppose DAESH and its ideas until I die, and they can go to hell. 

  
I am Brussels, I am Paris, I am Beruit, I am Ramadi. I am every place and people that the terrorist thugs of the Islamic State kill innocents. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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The Rearview Mirror of 2015: Religion, Politics, and Terrorism

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and depending who you are or where you live it could have been one, the other or both. For me it has been one of those, not that there is anything wrong with that, and truthfully as rough as it has been at times, I cannot discount the importance of these events in my life. Back in October I wrote an article that kind of sums up how important each of these threads is in my life, Tapestry: The Importance of Just One Thread.

The year was difficult, but we have made it through, and all of the threads of this year are now part of the tapestry of our lives. I am still dealing with PTSD, chronic insomnia and trimmings, but on the whole doing better than I was a year ago. We lost our wonderful dog Molly, a dog who more than once save my life in the years after Iraq, but that being said, the ghost of Molly is still around and doing some of the same things that she did when I was at my lowest, if you want you can read about that here, Ghost Dog Central. Though we lost Molly we still have Minnie Scule who was joined by Izzy Bella, our now one year old Papillion. They are both great dogs, totally different in personality, and Izzy is a lot like Molly in temperament and personality.

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The same day we lost Molly, my wife Judy found out that she had an abnormal pap-smear and was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer. She went through surgery and a long post-surgical recovery, but her doctor says she is now cancer free, though she gets regular checkups to make sure that it does not come back.

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On a lighter side we also made our second trip to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, and a side trip to Salzburg, Austria where we discovered that the hills really might be alive, but I digress… I was also able to see some groups as musical artists from my bucket list. I saw a combined Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire concert as well as the legendary Boz Skaggs.

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But 2015 was eventful, in a very dark way….

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Terrorism of a number of varieties seemed to dominate much of the year. In January there were the Charlie Hebdo attacks made by radical Islamists in Paris, Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom, Do Not Give in to Fear: #Je Suis Charlie. If that attack had been all it would have been enough, but terrorism, mostly committed in the name of God, or racist ideology seemed to be everywhere. Of course there were the continued attacks of Islamist militants in sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Mali. The Horn of Africa, including Somalia and the Sudan; and North Africa, in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. Those attacks, and incidents are too numerous to be listed, but sadly in the west, or the industrialized areas of Asia, no one seems to take note of them. Truthfully, the only thing the west and countries like China care about in Africa are the natural resources, dead Africans don’t seem matter as long as we get our resources.

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But there were terrorist attacks in the United States as well. There was a murder of three young Muslim UNC students in Chapel Hill North Carolina A Time to Stand Against Hate; a clash between incendiary Muslim and anti-Muslim groups in Garland Texas, Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland. 

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The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest AME church in the South. Nine people died in a hate crime shooting on June 17, 2015.

 

Of course the massacre of the pastor and other members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, by a young White Supremacist named Dylann Storm Roof Call it Terrorism: Massacre at Emmanuel AME, When Ideology Kills Kindness: Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME.

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Then terror returned, in the space of two weeks a Russian airliner was downed by a bomb most likely planted by sympathizers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or DAESH Can You Live with It? War, ISIL & a Downed Airliner; an attack by DAESH in Beirut Lebanon which killed 43 people, and then a massacre that stunned the world in Paris, Terror in Paris, The Lamps are Going Out: Paris & the End of the Illusion of Peace. The latter seems to have spurred the west into doing more to fight DAESH and it appears that the war that DAESH has desired with the west is now an accomplished fact.

An SUV with its windows shot out that police suspect was the getaway vehicle from at the scene of a shooting in San Bernardino, California is shown in this aerial photo December 2, 2015. Gunmen opened fire on a holiday party on Wednesday at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, then fled the scene, triggering an intense manhunt and a shootoutout with police, authorities said. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1WX2P

But this terror came to the United States not long after when a DAESH inspired couple massacred people gathered for a holiday party in San Bernardino and the chilling thing was that they were the co-workers of the man, True Believers & Terrorism. I ended up reflecting on all of these attacks in a number of articles, including Power Hungry Religionists Will Inherit the Wind, Faith & Terror, and Accessories to Murder: The Propagandists who Inspire Terror.

These attacks caused me to write a number of articles about racism, propaganda, ideology, politics, mass movements and genocide. I think this article Dehumanization & Genocide helps to bring a certain historical perspective to these subjects, as does this one, Civilization Is Tissue Thin: Holocaust & Genocide as Warning. I also decided to frame some of the current fear of terrorism and the hateful invective being hurled at many American Muslims through the lens of Star Trek in these articles, Your Fear Will Destroy You and The Belief in a Devil. Another article which brought chills to me as I wrote is was just how easy it seems for some people to rationalize genocide, Just Following Orders: The Rationalization of Genocide and for ordinary people to take part in them Vast and Heinous Crimes: Ordinary Men & War Crimes.

Religion did not only inspire terror in 2015, but it was more closely than ever a part of American politics, and not necessarily for the good. As such I spent a lot of time on the intersection of church and state issues. This was especially true when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the Obegfell v. Hodges decision and much of the Christian Right including prominent Republican presidential candidates went haywire. There were times that their reaction reminded me of the great film Inherit the Wind.

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Supporters of same-sex marriages gather outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether gay couples have a constitutional right to wed -- a potentially historic decision that could see same-sex marriage recognized nationwide. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Since I firmly believe in religious liberty, and the separation of Church and State I wrote a number of articles dealing with that subject, including these, Religious Liberty or Tyranny?, this, Religion & State: The Less Mixed the Better and one about one of my heroes, the Virginia Baptist, John Leland, Exploding the Myth of Christian America. That crossed into some political commentary in this article Strike Down the Sinners: The Politics of the Christian Right.

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Since much of the focus on religious liberty in 2015 revolved around the recalcitrant county clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davis, and her political allies to deny legal rights to gay couples to marry I ended up writing a good number of articles during that political circus. If you want to read those just put her name in the search box. But as the dust cleared I wrote an article about a man who though he was a Christian, did not allow religious propaganda and hate to trump his sworn duty. The article about the late Dr. C. Everett Koop should be required reading for those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, even when it conflicts with their religious beliefs, Separate Ideology & Religion from Sworn Duty: The Legacy of Dr. C. Everett Koop.

Political commentary based on historical analysis has become more important to me, and I try to shy away from the more bombastic and partisan that I see and instead focus on rational comparisons that can help us understand events, and hopefully do better than our ancestors. One of these articles compares the political implosion of the Democratic and Whig Parties in the 1850s and what is currently transpiring in the Republican Party, a party that I belonged to for 36 years before leaving it in 2008. When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and its Relevance Today. Unlike some on both sides of the political chasm, I do not see what is happening as good, and I wrote this article to emphasize the importance of reason in political debate, Reason, the Salvation of Freedom. Interestingly enough, well before Donald Trump became the frontrunner in the GOP presidential campaign I wrote this little article, with a great cultural reference to a Bloom County comic strip published over 20 years ago, There Comes a Time… A Bloom County Reality Check.

Finally, a lot of what I wrote on the site was intensely personal and dealt with my battle with PTSD, my struggles with faith and belief, as well as my continued religious, social, and political transformation. These included My Faith: A Journey and Mission, but I think that one of the better articles I did about this process is It Fitted In: A Personal Reflection on Propaganda. I also wrote a number of articles for Memorial Day and Veterans Day which reflected my thoughts regarding my own military service and some social and political commentary related to who we as a nation deal with veterans and go to war, one of those was done just before Veterans Day, They Thanked Us Kindly: Reflections on Veteran’s Day 2015. My journey also brought new insights as I studied iconic Civil War heroes from the battle of Gettysburg, some of those articles included Tragic Heroes of Little Round Top,

I wrote a number of articles dealing with depression, suicide, PTSD and other issues that veterans and others struggle, I think this article sums up how I think we should treat those who struggle, Try to Understand: The Kindest, Noblest, & Best Thing You Will Ever Do. I also tried to bring attention to the continued crisis of veteran suicides in The Uncounted Cost of War: Veteran Suicides. I wrote about PTSD and the things that never seem to go away after war in this article, There Will be Nightmares: PTSD & Memories of War.

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Of course there was more, police shootings, the Syrian refugee crisis, and too much more to cover today. But be assured I will continue to write and do my best to present all of these events the best I can in the light of history. I may end up sounding like Spencer Tracy’s characters in Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremberg, but what I can I say?

I am continuing to learn through all of the evil being perpetrated by so many, is that  the perpetrators have no ability to empathize with people. It is the one defining characteristic that they all share. Captain Gustave Gilbert, In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” I find that more true every day.

Well, just one more day until we usher in 2016, and I do hope it will be better for everyone. By the way, a friend was able to get me a site over that the Daily Kos where I do some writing, and also post modified versions of what I write here as the mood hits me. The link to my blog there is, http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Padresteve

Have a great day and hopefully a Happy New Year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Hate vs. Hate: A Clash in Garland

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“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches it’s all ancient history. Then – before you can blink an eye – suddenly it threatens to start all over again.” Jean Luc Picard Star Trek the Next Generation – the Drumhead

Well the direct confrontation and collision between radical Moslems and their most radical opponents has finally happened. American Moslem Jihadists attack a gathering where those who hate Moslems are doing their best to incite Moslems to violence in Garland. Hate met hate and sadly, I fear this is just the beginning.

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Elton Simpson

The attackers, one named Elton Simpson from Phoenix who had previously been convicted about lying about his involvement with terror groups and a second who was likely his room-mate were killed when they opened fire outside the event wounding a security guard in the ankle. Just prior to the attack Simpson sent out a twitter message with the hashtag #texasattack stating “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”

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AbuHussainAlBritani

Over the past few week various members of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) have encouraged attacks on this particular gathering. The attacks were cheered by AbuHussainAlBritani (@_AbuHu55ain) on Twitter who may also have helped direct them. Four hours before the attack he tweeted: The knives have been sharpened, soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter! #QaribanQariba . During and after the attack he continued to tweet:

My friends, if you ask me those are fighting words that need to be taken deadly serious.

The event Simpson and his accomplice attacked was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative headed by well-known racist and Moslem baiter Pamela Geller who has determined that all Moslems are the enemy. Like the Southern Poverty Law Center I believe that it is a hate group, but that being said even hate groups have free speech rights and should not be violently attacked.

The event supposedly promoted standing with “free speech” rights and was dedicated to standing in solidarity with the staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine which was slaughtered by Islamic terrorists in January. Critics said it was an anti-Moslem gathering and there is some truth in that statement and I am inclined to classify it as such because I know what Geller stands for. It included a speech given by Dutch right-wing, anti-Moslem and some would say Fascist politician Geert Wilders. However, the highlight of the event was the completion to draw a cartoon image of the Prophet Mohammed, which is considered blasphemous by Moslems. The prize was $10,000 for the best rendition of the Prophet. Of course by “best” I would assume this would be the most hateful, inflammatory and derogatory defection, without the often brilliant satire of the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo. There is a difference between hate and racism versus satire and I’m sure that knowing Geller and those devoted to her cause that this was not satire, and was probably more like Julius Streicher’s depiction of Jews in Der Sturmer. The irony that Geller, a Jewish woman would employ the hatred and racist pornography of the Nazi Streicher in her attacks on Moselms is not lost on me. 

Now as much as I despise Geller and her ignorant and hate filled screeds against all Moslems I stand with her in regard to free speech, even that with which I disagree. I also know that for Geller that free speech is a one way street. Likewise I question the wisdom of conducting the event, knowing that it might provoke a violent response, but I do not think for a moment that such speech should be banned, and no civilized person or group would ever violently attack such a gathering. Sadly Geller’s actions play right into the hands of the Moslem extremists. 

 

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Stéphane Charbonnier of Charlie Hebdo- Murdered in Cold Blood

Over the past couple of years and especially over the past few months we have seen an increase in such attacks by radicalized Moslems on those who they believe have blasphemed the Prophet. Charlie Hebdo in Paris, an attack on a coffee shop in Australia, and an attack on a free speech event in Copenhagen Denmark. After the Charlie Hebdo attack the Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group claimed credit for the attack. One of its leaders, Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: “If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.” 

Of course such words are a declaration of war against free speech.

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Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 and wounded 110 mostly children

Likewise there have been attacks by right-wing and often allegedly “Christian” people against Moslems, or people who just happened to look like Moslems. Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian went into action to kill the enemies of Western Civilization and Christian culture on July 22nd 2008.  In an assault that included a car bomb which killed 8 people and wounded 209 and an attack on a youth camp which killed 69 and wounded another 110, almost all of them children.

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Wade Page

Wade Page, a neo-Nazi and White Supremacist attacked a Sikh Temple, confusing it with a Moslem gathering killed 6 people and wounded many more who had simply come to worship before he was killed by police.

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In February three America students at University of North Carolina were gunned down execution style in their home by Craig Stephen Hicks. According to those who know Hicks hated all religion and was quite angry at the Christians and Jews who participated together with Moslems and others in the ecumenical memorial services after the attacks of September 11th 2001.

The key ingredient in all of these attacks no matter who is conducting them is a hatred of the other, a passionate hatred that Eric Hoffer noted “can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.”   

The sad thing is that I believe that this is just the beginning. The whole purpose of those radicalized to hate other with such passion to bring about an ideological-religious war between Islam and the West. The cycle of violence will increase until it boils over as it is incited by extremists of all types, Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Atheist, you name them. Real honest debate and dialogue has been replaced by the most base and vitriolic attacks and violence and that my friends is why this is just the beginning.

I am a realist and I fear for what happens when eventually people connected to the Islamic State conduct a strike on an America city or event with a nuke, dirty-bomb, chemical agent or biological agent which causes mass causalities and destruction. Mark my words it will happen no matter how hard we try to prevent it. When it happens the Geller’s of the world will use it to justify all means of attacks and persecution of Moslems in this country, the vast majority of whom are innocent, law abiding and loyal Americans. It will be worse that what we did to American citizens of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor, and I would not be surprised Moslems rounded up and their property vandalized or seized.

I for one am glad that the terrorists did not succeed and were killed but there will be more and they will undoubtedly will be more competent and deadly than Simpson and his accomplice ever dreamed of being.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Je Suis Charlie: An Attack on Freedom

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Edgar Johnson wrote  that “A satirist is never certain whether he/she will be acclaimed or punished.” Today 10 extraordinary and acclaimed satirists were punished by Islamic extremists who killed them for their alleged offenses against Mohammed.

This morning I looked at my iPhone Twitter feed and noticed that there had been an attack on  the offices of the French satire paper Charlie Hebdo. When I got to work and logged on to my computer I saw the awful news that a dozen people were dead, many more wounded. As I watched the video reports of the attack on the BBC News live stream I was horrified, but not surprised. I just wondered when, where and to whom this would happen. While the attackers appear to be radicalized Moslems, claiming links to Al Qaeda, and with the Islamic State claiming credit for the attack, the fact is that free speech is under assault around the world with journalists, writers and even bloggers being threatened and sometimes like today killed in the most brutal manner.

Sometimes the threats come from Moslem and other religious extremists, and the fact is that in addition to Moslems radical Christians, Hindus and Jews have have threatened, assaulted or killed those they oppose. Other radical non-religious entities do the same. Likewise many governments use open and secretive means to silence dissenting writers.

The fact is that speaking the truth to power, making comments that some find offensive, or the timeless art of political and religious satire is dangerous. I have been threatened a number of times on this site, mostly by White Supremacists and Neo-Nazi types, but occasionally a less than gruntled Christians or Moslems.  I’ve gotten used to it, though on one occasion in 2010 I had to report one person who made very specific threats against me and my family to the FBI.

However, the attack on the people who made up the staff of Charlie Hebdo was very troubling. While the paper made satire of Islamic extremists, it also took on the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jews, as well as made mincemeat of the the French political landscape and political leaders, right wing and left wing, which means that those that they became the enemies of a lot of powerful people who do not like to be criticized.

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The fact is that satire is meant to shake things up and on occasion offend those in power. It does so through wit and humor, sometimes even crude and offensive humor. That is what makes it so effective. Some of the greatest American social and political commentators included Mark Twain and Will Rogers, who used satire many times and quite often offended many people, especially political, religious and business leaders or organizations.

That kind of satire as Harry Shearer, who does the voices for a number of characters on The Simpsons and maintains his own satire program noted that because satirists have the job of needling those in power that they often have no one to defend them.

Shearer noted:

With Charlie Hebdo, “you really have a clean case here,” Shearer said. “This is a magazine, a group of humans who exist not to sell hardware and software on the side. This is a group of humans who exist mainly if not exclusively to put out a satirical magazine that is not basically commercial; it’s a satirical enterprise that happens to exist in a commercial market. The sad fact is there is no one else to defend them. Satirists are reliant ultimately on the very establishment they mock. That’s the great irony of their situation.”

Those killed included some of the most talented and gifted cartoon satirists in the world, some of whom had been living under death threats for years.

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The dead included Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor and best known cartoonist, nine other staff including other noted cartoonists and writers and two policemen.

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Stéphane Charbonnier

Today, anyone who values liberty, and freedom of speech, expression and association knows the reality that if you offend the wrong people that you could be killed. It really doesn’t matter who or what you criticize, the fact is that there are people who for whatever reason, be it an offense against their God, their ideology or political beliefs, that some people cannot take criticism. 

I did find it interesting that Bill Donohue of the Catholic League blamed Charbonnier and his staff for insulting the prophet. I found that interesting coming from a man who simply debases and demeans his opponents while condemning them to hell, and who has made plenty of inflammatory statements about Islam and Moslems. Donohue, the champion of intolerance condemned not the intolerance of the killers, but the “intolerance” of those who were murdered. I am sure that in the next few days there will be many right wing Christian preachers and pundits who say similar things.

But also one has to look at this attack in a strategic context. If the attackers are members of Al Qaeda or ISIL they chose their victims carefully in order to provoke a response against innocent Moslems that will provoke even more violence. Such people are evil.

The fact is that I don’t have to like satire, sometimes I am offended by some of the things that I see, read or hear, but good satire makes me think, that is it’s brilliance. As G.K. Chesterton said “A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true.”

So in the tradition of defending the freedom of speech, the press and association, #Je Suis Charlie.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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