Archive for January, 2015

Waking up to deep, bone chilling cold in Northern Ontario this week has been trying, but waking up to turn on the news on CBC radio this morning was devastating. Again, writers and journalists were slaughtered. Why? Because they had strong views, because they spoke their minds, using satire and well chosen language? That it happened in France, where revolution is historically rooted, seems even more horrible. Long ago, under the reigns of opulent kings and queens, people questioned hierarchical and oppressive social structures, challenging previously established ideas and norms. Individualism and freedom were key tenets of that earlier revolution. People lost their heads. People gained new ideas and thoughts, learning to question.

As a writer, and as a teacher of young people, I believe questioning is key to learning. When you stop being curious, you stop learning. It doesn’t bode well for the future of this world if people follow along like sheep. (That reminds me of the song, “Sheep,” by The Housemartins. The lyrics speak of not following blindly, whether you follow politics, religion, or even a specific ideal or philosophy. It doesn’t mean you can’t be committed to an ideal, but it does suggest that you ought to be thinking more critically about our world, in an analytical way that questions why things happen the way they do.)

What breaks my heart about what happened today in Paris is that ten writers and two police officers died senselessly. What lifts my heart, though, is watching the trends on social media tonight. The #jesuischarlie hash tag, and the photos of people defiantly holding candles and pens high in the air, in huge groups, shows that terrorism cannot defeat freedom of speech. Too many lives were lost today. Of that, there is no doubt in my mind. Too many thoughts, too many words, too many ideas and lives were slaughtered. But the ripple effect, the aftermath, speaks of the strength of the human spirit, and of the love of freedom of speech, thought, word, and life. Why don’t we value it more, I wonder? Maybe we get too caught up in our own daily rhythms when, half a world away, life is stopped violently, creativity and voice silenced.

The thing the terrorists forget, though, is that silencing one voice does not silence others. In fact, as proven by the vigils in France tonight, the pen is mightier than the sword, and the pen can inspire and motivate humanity to find a better way.

I only hope we find it soon. There have been enough killings in the name of religion and politics, and too many writers and journalists have died in the pursuit of truth.


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