Silence Gives Consent

cartoon - Jean Jullien - Je Suis Charlie

By Judy Berman

Make no mistake. The aim in the massacre in Paris was to silence those who did not share their beliefs.

Two terrorists linked to al-Qaeda stormed a weekly satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on Wednesday, January 7, and murdered eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor.

Why? The extremists wanted to retaliate against the paper for publishing cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed, which they said is forbidden under Islamic law.

The rallying cry “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) is the voice of people in Paris and throughout the world who are taking a stand against Islamic terrorism. It is similar to what France’s newspaper, Le Monde, wrote after the 9/11 attack on the U.S.: “We Are All Americans Now.”

Some argue that the paper should not have continued to publish cartoons that inflamed Islamic radicals.

Where do you draw the line on what’s acceptable?

cartoon - David Pope 2 - Je Suis Charlie


If we do, we censor our thoughts, voice and actions because someone might take offense at what we say or do.

Voltaire, a satirist, “frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.” (Wikipedia)

But, in a quote attributed to Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it … “

That idea is obsolete for extremists. They become outraged and threaten retaliation and deadly force if any one disagrees with them.

cartoon - Jeff Parker - cartoon - Je Suis Charlie

It’s played out every day, including on social media, by those who cannot express clearly what their opposition is without violence – either verbal, in writing or with assault.

There are times when I feared for my safety when I worked as a reporter because someone was upset with something I wrote.

Once, a man came to the newspaper where I worked and demanded to see me. He accused me of working with police to implicate him in the death of a former girlfriend.

It appeared the man had been drinking. As he stormed out, he nearly knocked a woman down. It was then that my colleague, Bill Farrell, saw that the man had a sharp, shiny object in his back pocket. (story: here)

The assault on those who speak their minds is not limited to those who work in the media.

If we do not take a stand against terrorism, we will also become hostages and targets of extremists.

Rarely do folks with opposing views thoughtfully listen to and consider what another has to say, agree to disagree, and walk away peacefully.

I long for those days.


What are your thoughts? Please keep comments rated PG.

Music video: John Lennon’s “Imagine”   

NewsVideo: Considering this week’s events in France, Scott Pelley closed the broadcast on Friday, Jan. 9,, with a powerful message on a cherished freedom.

Cartoon – Je Suis Charlie – by Jean Jullien

Cartoon – Je Suis Charlie – by David Pope

Cartoon: Je Suis Charlie – by Jeff Parker, a syndicated cartoonist based in Florida.


Vigilante or Self-Defense?

By Judy Berman

Let’s say you meet a stranger in a dark alley. Someone is killed. The survivor claims self-defense. There are no witnesses. Only one side of this story is available because the other person is dead.

That image of the vigilante who takes the law into his own hands was popularized in Hollywood. Think: Charles Bronson (as Paul Kersey) when he avenged his wife’s death in “Death Wish” (1974). Many cheered him on when he sought revenge.

But two recent cases in Florida, that appear to have taken the same path, ended in the deaths of two young men under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Make no mistake. This is not about anyone’s right to “bear arms” and protect themselves. This is about rights guaranteed to U.S.citizens in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Rights such as the right to a fair trial “decided by a jury” of your peers. There’s not much chance of that happening if someone apparently takes justice into his own hands.

“The 2005 law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat when attacked, leading critics to say the statue fosters vigilante justice and allows criminals to get away with murder on a claim of self-defense,” according to The Miami Herald.

Florida Statute 776.013 (3), known as the “stand your ground” law, allows people to use deadly force if they think their life is in danger, or other lives are in jeopardy.

  • On Feb. 26th, an unarmed 17-year-old in Sanford, near Orlando, Trayvon Martin, was gunned down by 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Martin was returning to his parents’ home after going to a convenience store to buy Skittles and ice tea. Zimmerman told dispatchers that Martin looked “suspicious.”
  • On Wednesday, March 21st, Miami-Dade Judge Beth Bloom tossed out a case against Greyston Garcia, who was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Pedro Roteta. 26, on Jan. 25th. “Police said Roteta was stealing Garcia’s truck radio.” Garcia chased Roteta more than a block before the fatal attack. Roteta had a pocket knife, but it was unopened and in his pocket, according to The Miami Herald.

In the Martin case, Zimmerman ignored police advice not to confront the teen. He followed Treyvon Martin in his sport utility vehicle and then on foot. The two allegedly got into a fight. The devastating outcome has been the subject of protests and national news coverage.

The Miami-Dade judge’s decision on Garcia angered Miami police Sgt. Ervens Ford, who supervised the case. The Miami Herald quotes Ford as saying the decision was a “travesty of justice. How can it be Stand Your Ground? It’s on (surveillance) video! You can see him stabbing the victim … “

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office may appeal the judge’s ruling.

The Miami Herald reports that “in the first five years the law was in effect, it was invoked 93 times. In the last year and half, it has been invoked at least an additional 37 times. ‘Justifiable homicides’ reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have increased threefold since the law went into effect.”

The state of Florida should take action now to re-examine the Stand Your Ground law. What happened to Trayvon Martin … and to Pedro Roteta … could have happened to anyone’s child. This law is a matter of concern for all citizens who want safe passage on our streets and in our neighborhoods.


UPDATE: On June 26, 2012, Greyston Garcia, 26, was killed in Liberty City, Fla. shortly after he left his job at a convenience store. “Investigators suspect the shooting was between two rival gangs and Garcia was an innocent victim.” CBS Miami reported.

UPDATE: On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. Here is the link to USA Today’s story:


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* Main photo of Charles Bronson taken in 1973. In 1974, he starred in the vigilante film, “Death Wish”           Attribution: Fish Cop at en.wikipedia

* Editorial cartoon: courtesy of Jeff Parker, Florida Today 

* Miami judge decides fatal stabbing was self-defense, a news article in The Miami Herald.

* Number of “stand your ground” cases rises as legislators rethink law, a news article in The Miami Herald.

* The Bill of Rights