Aaron wrote this morning about the horrific murder of twelve people at the headquarters of the French satire magazine, Charlie Hebdo, but I can’t get it off my mind. It’s bothering me in a way very few things really do: in a Columbia-law-students-refuse-to-take-their-finals-because-of-emotional-distress sort of way. Every day of my life, for almost ten years now, I’ve said something rude and uncouth on the Internet. My generation, of course, views this as practically a human right. And my audience, confrontational as it can be at times, has always been civil. Like yesterday, I can literally spend days of my life making fun of our elected leadership and the people who put them into power, and while I might get a nasty email every once in a while criticizing my grammar or my irrational hatred of Mike Huckabee, the biggest risk of my writing career is supposed to be carpal tunnel, not the potential to be gunned down by a cadre of Islamic fundamentalist lunatics.
I’m lucky. I say a lot about how freedom in this country is being threatened, and how America has lost its way from the principles and values that made the founding of this nation possible, but at the end of the day, even when I don’t trust my own leadership to effectively defend my rights, I say these things in an environment that is relatively stable. The world on the horizon, on the other hand, does not look so safe. Yes, all of these mass murders, foreign and domestic, are committed by lunatics. But for these lunatics, it’s not simply a random act of violence. They aren’t off their meds and accidentally in proximity of an AK-47. It’s not about being in the wrong movie theater at the wrong time. These lunatics look at the bodies they leave behind and think “mission accomplished.” And we’re all on the list.
It sounds rather dramatic, but we have a lot to decide in the coming weeks, months and years. This isn’t really terrorism, because that assumes that there isn’t a larger plan other than to make people afraid and disrupt the casual way in which we go about our daily lives. I don’t delve into foreign policy; I don’t have any answers about how to confront a global Jihadist threat. I just hope and pray that journalists in this country and across the globe will continue to have the courage to wake up every day and tell the truth, no matter the consequences. I know, for some, that battle is already over and lost. But for many, the mission is just beginning.
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