Today the blue, white and red tricolour of the French flag flies over a country that pains from a devastating attack on an office building in Paris, resulting in the death of over a dozen French citizens. But the flag flown over France is not the only one that should stand for a country mourning the death of these people. With it fly the flags of every free nation in the world, which, even if not recognizing the death of at least 16 innocent human lives, should recognize the unquantifiable casualty of the terror attacks at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo on January 7: our human right to free speech.
The history of free speech is a long one. Dating back to philosophers of Ancient Greece, it opened the door to humans’ right to unoppressed expression. Solidified on a legal basis in the United States Constitution, it has provided a structure with which to evaluate the core elements of our society, ranging from government policy to social justice, and embodies the culture of America. Now existent in most successful nations, free speech has become the focal point of the global population’s aspirations as it seeks inherent fairness in human relationships. It has become the beloved father and child of those who embrace it and a beacon of hope for those who are just out of its reach. It is the blood of the human spirit, the mouth of the human population. However, the murder of those who exercise this right to free speech, like the staff of Charlie Hebdo, represent the attempted murder of free speech overall.
Luckily for the entire free world, the injuries sustained by the right to free speech on January 7 are not life-threatening. Rather, such an overt attack on rights widely regarded as unalienable and fundamental to the peace and freedom of any nation provides an opportunity for every believer in the doctrine of freedom to prove their values indestructible. Now is the time, more than ever, for every citizen of the world to voice their peaceful opinion and make clear their belief in humans’ right to free speech.
When radical extremists killed 2,977 Americans on September 11, 2001, the federal government responded with a clear message of resilience and resolve. Only one day later, all federal agencies and departments, including those that suffered tragic losses that fall morning, reopened for business. The nation’s financial institutions also reopened the following day and soon thereafter witnessed a full recovery. In more recent memory, only one year after the bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three and injured 264, the 2014 Boston Marathon witnessed the registration of almost 10,000 more runners than in 2013.
In this horrific reincarnation of a recurring theme of extremist terrorism against the western world, those who were impacted on a geographic basis speak French, rather than English. But those who it impacts on a basis of humanity speak every language known to mankind. And it is in every one of those languages, in every nation, and in every corner of the globe that we must make our resolve to defend the human right to free speech one that is concrete.
(Matthew Hornung ’16, Media Director)