By Katie Kieffer
12 Charlie Hebdo staffers who died for free speech and 25 Republicans who voted against U.S. Speaker John Boehner are heroes. We too could be heroes, me and you.
“We could be heroes, me and you,” are lyrics from Heroes (We Could Be)—a 2014 number one hit single by Swedish DJ Allesso, featuring singer Tove Lo. The lyrics reverberate with new meaning after the January 7 terror attack on the French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
You and I have a historic calling to be leaders as our freedom is being attacked from both within and without. Rather than letting cowardly politicians or terrorists scare you into silence, hold your head high and emulate the 25 brave representatives who risked their committee leadership roles to vote against John Boehner and the 12 Charlie Hebdo staffers who risked their lives for free speech.
Look Up To Heroes, In France and America
In the U.S.—despite a clear voter mandate for reform in the 2014 midterms—many Republican representatives voted to re-elect Obama’s golfing buddy John Boehner as House Speaker. Republicans who promised to fight federal corruption showed their true colors the moment they set foot in the nation’s capitol.
Boehner’s incompetence and unprofessionalism were obvious to all, argued one brave defector, Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky. Massie told Fox News that secret voting sessions; faint negotiations; and compulsory voting on unread legislation were par for the course with Boehner at the helm. Yet only 25 out of 246 House Republicans had the courage to keep their promises to constituents.
“What is the point of my life if I’m a coward?” those who voted for Boehner ought to ask themselves. After all, your position of “power” on a congressional committee is empty if you hold that position because you kissed up to an incompetent bureaucrat.
No one loves a coward—though they may kiss his feet. On the contrary, scores of people across the globe admire the late Charlie Hebdo editor, Stéphane Charbonnier. Shortly after Charbonnier’s death, his girlfriend Jeannette Bougrab told the UK Daily Mail: “I admired him before I fell in love with him and I loved him because of the way he was, because he was brave. He thought that life was a small thing when he was defending his ideals.”
#JeSuisBoehner will never become a trending topic on Twitter because no one admires a man whose values sway with the political wind. #JeSuisCharlie became proliferate because men who are willing to die for their ideals are inspirational.
A dozen brave souls who published the newspaper version of Comedy Central’s South Park—a satirical paper that mocked all religions, including Islam—have re-awakened the globe to the value of free speech.
Lesson: you and I have more power than a few hundred weaklings in the House when we act as courageous individuals. You and I have more muscle than our puerile president who went from telling the U.N. General Assembly in 2012: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” to implying last week that Charlie Hebdo staffers “offer the world a timeless example that will endure…”
Fear is crippling whereas humor—and satire is a form of humor—is constructive. Humor opens the door for discussion on serious matters. Humor deflects negative emotions like anger and instead forces our minds to seek solutions.
Cherif Kouachi, Said Kouachi and Hamyd Mourad were so afraid of a few cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed that they killed defenseless writers and artists with AK-47 automatic machine guns while shielding their faces with ski masks. Charlie Hebdo’s humorous illustrations of the prophet were laudable because they were fodder for conversation whereas killing journalists while yelling “God is great” in Arabic was gutless and purposeless.
As in France, our American values of freedom of speech, individualism and entrepreneurship are being attacked from within by cowardly politicians—as well as from without by Islamic militants (think 9/11/01; the 9/11/12 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi; and the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing).
When terrorists struck the Twin Towers on 9/11, the late American comedian Joan Rivers responded with humor: “Because unless somebody does, America will go mad. Unless we laugh, they’ve won!” Joan Rivers understood that the only way to cultivate peace is to trade destructive fear for constructive humor. Charlie Hebdo’s staff espoused Rivers’ approach, fighting violent extremism with peaceful satire.
“We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than to live like a rat,” Charbonnier once explained to ABC News.
But how many of us are as brave as Charbonnier? How many of us are living a life worth living? Are you? Am I?
“Do you know people capable of dying for their ideas today? No.” Charbonnier’s girlfriend Jeannette Bougrab lamented to the U.K. Daily Mail.
Prove Bougrab wrong. Be courageous like the 25 Republicans who stood up to John Boehner and the 12 Charlie Hebdo staffers who stood up for free speech. We can be heroes, me and you.