Posted by: chlost | January 11, 2015

Freedom from Terror Should be a Basic Human Right

This past weekend has been awash with news from France about the Charlie Hebdo attack and the reactions to it. It is heartening and awe-inspiring to see millions of ordinary people in the streets of Paris, London and other cities showing support for freedom of expression in the face of terrorism. Clearly, I don’t know all of the political intrigue which may or may not have been behind the attack, but the fact that it happened at all was meant to strike fear in the hearts of ordinary people. The ordinary people of France have responded:

“We are not afraid!”

Here in the US, there have been very few, if any such demonstrations. Watching the videos from Paris, it struck me that if there had been such demonstrations here-say in New York, for example-the response to them would have been completely different.

It is hard to imagine such a demonstration here which would not have been met with riot police, SWAT teams, dogs, and a military presence (at the very least as a back up for local or state law enforcement). The demonstration, if it happened, would have been seen as threatening, a terrorist act in itself. Two million people on the streets of New York? That would send shivers down the spine of every local, state and national official. It would be reported as violent by the media, even it it were not. The mere act of that many people blocking the streets, forcing the closing of shops and businesses, snarling traffic and eruptions of thunderous applause would be seen as an attack on our civilized society.

If twelve staff members of Mad Magazine been murdered, would we have responded in the same way? How about if the Onion staff had been attacked? These are both long-established publications of biting political humor.

Let me answer my own question….it was a bit rhetorical, after all….No. There would not be two million people in the streets over such an attack. We did not have that big of a response to the Boston Marathon attack.  Or the 9/11 bombing. Or any other act of attack on private persons, none of whom were in the business of rattling the cage of the extremists.

America prides itself on its’ freedoms. We boast about how free we are. We fight over how our freedoms should be balanced against each other. Americans claim their freedom of religion, speech, press as the definition of what it means to be American.

How free are we?

The American reaction to a terrorist attack has been to take away the freedom of its’ citizens in the name of protecting us from future acts of terror. Our fear of a future attack has been used as a reason that none of us can be fully trusted. Our phones calls are monitored, cameras follow our daily routines, arrest without charges or trials are justified if there is suspicion of bad acts, and the media is denied access to some public information. All in the name of fighting terror.

We are still living in terror. We are afraid.

The French, on the other hand, seem to be angry as hell.

It will be very interesting to see which response is more effective in stopping these attacks on freedom.

At this point, I think the win goes to France.



  1. I knew you would have something intelligent to say. Thank you!

  2. I think the win goes to France, too. It seems like we are a bit complacent, and when we do get angry over an event, it seems to turn against ourselves.

  3. Ben Franklin said it best, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” France wins.

  4. Well said. My 91-year old mom watches Fox News 24/7. And, being as we all live together, I hear some of what is going on in Fox Newsland.

    And, it is terror.

    Fox would have you believe (and, sadly, there are lots of viewers who are believers) that terrorists are going to be showing up on your doorstep *any minute now!* So, grab your guns!

    Another host, who likes to flaunt her Catholic/Christian beliefs was all for murdering the infidels. The fact that the Islamic Extremists are murdering what, to them, are the infidels is wrong, apparently — but her Christian killing of the infidel is quite ok. Though I’m pretty certain that she would not be one of the front line attackers … she’d let others do her fighting, while she stayed, safely in her news studio.

    Although, Fox has forgotten all about the fact that they’ve hated the French since France wouldn’t help us in Iraq. Remember Freedom Fries, because we couldn’t say “French”?

    I was so amazed at the millions who marched, united, angry, unafraid. As you said, there was nothing comparable here after 9/11. We just sat, glued to our TVs, afraid to go outside. But, then, Europe has had big wars on its lands. Two World Wars in the last century that touched every country and village. We’ve had little fighting — not since the Civil War. And much of the country (i.e. the west) was not battleground.

    Europe, having been the setting for so much war, has a different spirit … all that fighting and bloodshed has toughed their spirits.

    Not that they are perfect — the anti-Islam/Jewish/Immigrant sentiments are again rising in Europe. So, they seem to be similar to us in that we want a united peace, as long as certain groups are excluded. That is perhaps a universal human flaw …

    But, I agree. The mass demonstrations were truly impressive. Definitely a win.

    • Yes, the nationalistic groups seem to be making inroads throughout the world. It is very disconcerting. Here, I think that a large majority of people feed on that from F News. They pass themselves off as so “American”, and yet they are one of the most direct causes of the problems this country faces.

  5. It seems like a recent change here to me. Possibly a post-9/11 change. And I don’t think we understand how dangerous it is that we’ve sacrificed so much in terms of freedom.

    • No one really seems to appreciate that we have given up so many rights. It is very scary to me. As long as our day-to-day life is not interrupted, no one even thinks about it.

  6. So articulately and forcefully noted. YES. The U.S. comes up short in so many ways, and the first step to improving ourselves is to look at those weaknesses face on.

    You should be, like, a lawyer.

    • Awww.. thanks, Jocelyn. I’m still practicing.

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