“Je Suis Charlie” The tweets and Facebook posts should really have read, “Nous Sommes Charlie.” Because at some profound level we are all Charlie.
Charlie Hedbo had the misfortune of finding itself in the center of the perfect storm that is sweeping over all of us – the intersection of religion, politics and the environment within in which we all live.
The religion part is the easiest one to focus on. A wise theologian once said that religion is “meaning-making.” In one way or another our human attraction to religions is a part of our quest to find meaning in our lives. In different religions, that plays out in different ways, but the quest is the same. At the risk of jumping to conclusions about the identity of the bombers in Paris, for some Muslims protecting one’s god from what is viewed as blasphemy can be viewed as a purpose for living – meaning-making. It’s an extreme example, perhaps, but right-wing fundamentalist Christians find the same meaning in their lives as they resort to violent rhetoric while defending their god.
So religion took its place on the Paris stage yesterday. But so did politics and our environment.
The political ramifications and involvement in yesterday’s exercise in meaning-making include such disparate causes as freedom of speech and myriad wars on terror. Freedom of speech is by its nature political, and always contentious. When does your right to free speech impinge upon my right to be free of your blasphemy? As for wars on terror or wars on drugs or even wars on Iraq (which was not coincidentally blasphemously called a “Crusade” before the Bush administration corrected its P.R. error!) they have obviously been waged for political motives far different than their lofty titles might imply. It can be presumed that the bombers in Paris felt that the global war on terror has been a personal war against their beliefs and cultural heritage. They may not be wrong.
So what about our environment? What does that have to do with yesterday’s tragedy in Paris? It is interesting to note that the very word “environment” comes from the Old French word “environ” – meaning our surroundings. We typically think of the natural environment – the trees and the rivers and the forests – when we hear the word environment, but it actually refers to our surroundings – all of our surroundings.
And our surroundings have become toxic. We have air pollution and water pollution, to be sure, but more than that we have an ever-increasing scarcity of resources including food and clean water. Our environmental toxicity further widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The poor and marginalized – and that most certainly includes the religiously marginalized – get pushed even further to the edges of our environment – to the squalid margins of our environment. The resulting frustration is often expressed in the form of violence. War and guns and bombs, yes, but also in the more subtle violence apparent in our treatment of our neighbors on the planet. We live in a violent environment.
Politics and religion came together within our toxic and violent environment yesterday. As one French headline proclaimed, 12 people were killed, 66 million were hurt. In truth, we were all hurt. We all became Charlie. And it’s because we are all hurting. We can’t breathe. We are being choked in a toxic environment that often has its genesis in misdirected politics and religion and man-made violence directed at our natural environment
If we are to free ourselves from this toxic choke-hold, we must all become Charlie. We must fearlessly raise our collective voices and our pens and reclaim meaning in our lives. We all need to be meaning-makers, individuals coming together to build a loving and sustainable community that can change our politics and our religious expression and finally our environment for the better. We need to all be a part of a political, religious and environmental climate change.
Anything less will inevitably lead to our collective death