I listened to Abe’s entire speech tonight. It was a sincere moving tribute to the men who died in the attack while defending our country, to their bravery in defending Pearl, to the families left behind, and recognition and gratitude to a country big enough and morally strong enough to help the defeated build democracies from the ashes. There was nothing hollow, insincere or contrived about it. Neither nation has ever “apologized” inasmuch as “I’m sorry” or “We messed up” is a shallow, trite slap in the face to the many millions who died so horribly in that war. I have no use for people who carp “He didn’t apologize,” obviously having neither heard nor comprehended what Abe, and then President Obama, actually said. Words are inadequate. What counts is not what we said but what we did, and Japan and America have proved exactly that.
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The terrorists who assassinated staff at the offices of the satirical Parisian magazine “Charlie Hebdo” also attempted a hostage situation at a kosher supermarket outside Paris, where they were shot dead by police within the last few hours.
Much attention has rightly been paid to the acts of terror themselves, and to the increasing threat to free speech in Europe and beyond, and to the absolute necessity of fighting by whatever means, if necessary, to preserve that right. But there is a finer shade of question to these awful events, France’s “911,” which as yet has received scant examination.
We must ask ourselves what we might expect if a satirical cartoon “intended to highlight public issues” ridiculed and disgraced the Christian Jesus with a humiliating and mildly pornographic image. In some parts of Europe and America, the lynch mobs would be still be assembling. It’s not a question of free speech – of course we are free to speak plainly in the western world – it’s a question of matching the message to the issues. While I admire Charlie Hebdo’s courage in the abstract, their implementation was very junior-high-school and puerile. It was a gratuitous slap in the face to the majority of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world who live in peace for much the same values as we do. None of this in any way mitigates or ameliorates the terrorist attack of Charlie Hebdo offices, and I am glad those terrorists were shot dead. But it is worth thinking about.
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