Free Speech Charlie Hebdo and the Art World

Two weeks after Islamic extremist murdered my colleagues at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, I feel now is the time to reflect on what their deaths mean to us. Why were their creative talents targeted ?

One thing I can assure you is that neither ISIS nor al-Qaeda require an excuse to murder the innocent or the creative (those who question or challenge their ideology). The very fact republics and democratic governments exist threatens them to the very core of their extremist ideology. Their desire to enslave women, maim, murder and use the Holy Koran as the excuse or impetus to perform these savage acts is actually a greater evil than democracy, or the ideology of western society could ever possibly impose.

Among the casualties of the Islamic extremist agenda are the millions of Muslims who wish to co-exist and live in peace with the rest of the planet.

The excuse that a piece of cartoon or political art depicting the Prophet Mohammad was a license to murder is absurd. Extremists would have you believe they are the first and only religious group to be insulted by the art world. I am almost certain that you, the reader, can predict my segue to Andres Serrano's controversial 1987 Piss Christ -- a photograph of a cross submerged in a jar of urine. Both Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Christians were offended. As I recall the National Endowment of the Arts also came under scrutiny for allocating funds to Serrano.

The difference is the Christians did not kill anyone over art that offended their faith.

The truth is that art has been interlaced with religion since before recorded history. Where would modern religion be if it was not for the oil painter, sculptor, muralist and wood carver? The greatest works man has ever created have been in tribute to religious inspiration.

Cartoonists have the gift of taking the most complicated subject and refining it to the simplest of terms; a picture with a few words is the essence of their craft. They, like every other artist, leave their work to the interpretation of the individual.

Either you get it or you don't!

What does all of this boil down to? The creative talent of Charlie Hebdo and the innocent bystanders killed two weeks ago join the list of journalists and those who live in a free democratic society, murdered by those who live to hate.

Though in principal I do not agree with the news directors from CNN, to media outlets all over the world, who chose not show the Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, for fear it could single out their journalists in retaliation by extremist or offend Muslims, their decision is, of course, wise and carefully weighed.

The one thing all media outlets, artists, journalists and you, the reader, must understand is that we must not let them die in vain. We must honor them by not giving into fear or sacrifice free speech or the creative talent of the artist.

No matter where on the planet you reside, we in spirit must join the people who gathered in Paris to say we will not sacrifice our democratic societies, no matter how much we may protest their governmental polices. Because our republics and democracies give us certain rights (to have a voice in government, the right to protest or assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the most important right we have, the freedom of religion) we must stand together and ensure that those rights are protected, defended and shared with those who wish to breathe free.