Je Suis Charlie: Reflections on How Freedom of Expression Can Cost You

Je Suis Charlie: Reflections on How Freedom of Expression Can Cost You
January 8, 2015 Leslie Juvin-Acker

Last night, I had horrible anxiety. I couldn’t figure out why. I knew somewhere something malign was happening and there was nothing I could do about it. I prayed to my angels to cover me with wisdom and show me why I was feeling the way I was. Boy, did I get the answer in the most unexpected way.

The very last dream I had last night was of I being attacked by another French person over expressing my opinion on my blog. This person was in my face, angrily pointing their finger into my face. I also felt pressure on my forehead as if I had been slapped or hit on the head. I woke up thinking this type of dream wasn’t a surprise as I have been verbally attacked before about the opinions I’ve expressed on my blog. However, I wondered why on earth I would see this visual and feel it so intensely.

I started my  day like any other, caring for the kids, dealing with business, making calls, etc. I checked my Instagram feed and I saw Je Suis Charlie (I Am Charlie). The French in me asked, “C’est quoi ca?”* I kept seeing it on my friends’ feeds on Facebook. Uh oh… I Googled it and learned the horrific news: Islamic extremist terrorists gunned down Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper which features comics mocking just about everyone, including Islamic figures. The folks at Charlie Hebdo have dealt with threats for years and those threats have finally materialized into earth shattering violence.

This situation weighs heavily on me for a number of reasons: I’ve been following the state of global terrorism since I began studying the politics of terrorism and counter terrorism during my university days. I’m French. And even if I haven’t been threatened with my life, I know what it’s like to be attacked over zealously for writing my truth here on my blog. When I write, I put myself- my expertise, my reputation, my relationships, and who I am  – out there.

Sportswriter Red Smith but it best, summing up my feelings about writing, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

When it comes to my articles, most are indifferent, some are touched, and a very few get so pissed off they don’t hesitate to demonstrate their anger.  These few are those who want to tell you how much you’ve got it all wrong, point fingers at everything that’s wrong with you and your ideas, and want to break you down with hate and anger so that they may ultimately silence you.

It is easy to get worked up and feel threatened by people who get angry over your writings, because they want you to stop. However, it’s in the face of aggression and repression that one must continue  to express oneself in the spirit of freedom. But, that’s the thing about freedom – it’s not free. There are risks and costs involved. But what is life if we take no risks? And what kind of world would we be living in without diversity and freedom of expression? We must face the risks and continue despite them.

It’s in the spirit of freedom and expression that I write – I write to help others, to share my minute sliver of perspective on love, life, and everything in between, and to do so without fear. Today, I write for the innocent who, in the face of hate and anger, have fallen as a result of the violence at Charlie Hebdo. We writers write for them today.

*Translation: What is that?