Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Lady Liberty has a pen

Tomi Ungerer, marvelous illustrator-writer
on the Charlie Hebdo massacre. See more cartoons here.
And here.  And here.
Let's pull for a world
where the pen can be used in safety.

I don’t think the most important question about what happened is “Do we support Charlie Hebdo?" I think the most important question is, “Do we support, and are we willing to fight for, a society in which people who make things like Charlie Hebdo can work in peace and sleep in their beds each night without fear?” --Alan Jacobs And given the current flight of Jewish citizens from France and the high number of crimes against them (I've read that 40% of racist crimes in France are committed against the 1% of the population that is Jewish), we'd better add where all "people . . . can work in peace and sleep in their beds each night without fear."

11 comments:

  1. I wrestle with this ethical dilemma: just because someone should be free to publish anything and everything, it does not necessarily follow that someone should publish everything and everything. Note: I am not condemning anyone anywhere (e.g., Charlie Hebdo), and I do condemn anyone who would resort to violence as a response to publications (e.g., the radical Islamic murderers), but I think there are probably lines of decency and respect beyond which anyone who creates and publishes should not go (e.g., in extreme examples, just for illustration, no one would endorse pornography involving child molestation or "snuff films" involving deaths or slander and defamation that ruins someone's reputation or emotional injures someone). So, I continue to wrestle with the issue. In other words, I am not ready to jump on the "je suis Charlie" bandwagon although I vigorously condemn the killers. I guess I remain perplexed.

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    1. Oh, I have a nuanced view as well. I think we need to support the right of satire to speak, but I would never write in extreme ways. But that's not the tug of my art.

      "Charlie Hebdo" certainly had legal inspection in court--and the publication survived. The examples you give are really illegal, but each writer/artist needs to figure out where the line is for himself/herself.

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    2. Yes, there are laws (imposed by governments), but there are more binding, unwritten laws that come from elsewhere. But that has been the timeless struggle: knowing and following those other laws.

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    3. Free will tells us we may make our own choices. Among those choices are faith and rejection of faith, morality and rejection of moral codes, adherence to truth and beauty and goodness and rejection of those things. Such choices draw a line of what we will and will not do, in life and in words. Each must decide.

      Satire is very dear to the heart of France, more so than in the states. Take, for example, Voltaire, who looked hard at church and state...

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    4. I was just reading some Hebrew scripture analysis the other day -- yeah, some light reading -- and I was reminded that there is no such thing as evil except as it involves human beings' free will choice of that which deviates from their innate (created) goodness. IOW, there is no Satan but only Yahweh; we alone are responsible for evil when we fail to follow Yahweh. Of course, that is Hebrew thought; Christianity somewhat alters that POV. Still, I think Hebrew thought has it just about right. Humans can be good, but humans choose otherwise rather too often.

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    5. Yes, we often choose wrong--what happened in France is just one example in a history that can look like a torrent of evil acts. But we are nothing without our choosings, and out of them can come noble acts and accomplishment and sacrifice, beauty and goodness. If we so choose...

      There are actually many things in your note that would take many books to sort out, so I'll leave it there!

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  2. Yes, we often choose wrong. That's what evil is in the Jewish tradition, missing the mark, taking the wrong path.
    I too have mused that it might be best if people didn't make such inflammatory statements, but we cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by violence because next, it won't be extreme sentiments but everyday ones that provoke it.

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    1. Yes, I think that is true... Good comment.

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  3. Over on my own blog, I've just reposted my thoughts on this from 2010 based on my experiences as a college cartoonist. I'm a mild-mannered, inoffensive writer, but I'll always defend writers and artists against the people who are trying to harm or kill them, regardless of whether I like what they create. Defending stuff I myself wouldn't write or draw feels weirdly liberating...

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    1. Yes, I feel precisely the same way--I, too, am "mild-mannered" but desiring to defend, "regardless of whether I like what they create." And yes, it feels like the higher ground where the free air blows... especially because we are "mild-mannered."

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    2. And also I have in mind the fact that one of my children is in school, studying graphic novel and comix and working on a long project right now. Those who died were once young people who loved writing and drawing... and they are in some sense ours, part of our larger family in the arts, part of our human family.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.