I Feel Like a “Charlie” Too

January 9, 2015

I grew up all over the world even in the Middle East for 3 years. I have long had a multi-cultural view of the world and even as a child a sense of wonderment at every new culture’s customs, beliefs, modes of dress, customs of behaviors, and of course their religions, ALL of which I can say I found interesting and useful in that they all, each and every one had some cosmic, transcendental idea that I adopted in my own way. I was fortunate to have ‘internationalist’ parents who unwitting or wittingly exposed me to all these different cultures through their work which were quite international in scope. In my own workplace, a significant part of our medical staff are Muslim or Hindu. I, intereestingly enough in this mixture, am a long ago converted Jew. Socially I love to mingle with, talk with and learn from those professionals and truly count them as some of the most wonderful friends I have met and been privileged to permit to get to know.

I went to college and medical school in the turbulent late sixties and early seventies on a truly tumultuous and radical campus, the University of Michigan. I lived in “co=operative” housing in which students owned and maintained the housing. This attracted the poorest, most brainy and most motivated students on campus and some of the most radical. So I lived in the midst of much of the political anti-establishment turmoil this country went through in the Johnson and Nixon Presidencies. I was a centrist, a fascinated observer. One of theses in my several specialized Honors Programs I was enrolled in, concerned the similarities between the far left radicals, true (not Communist) Bolsevik, anarchists in the Russian Revolution of the early 1900’s leading up to Lenin’s takeover of Russia, which was not idealistic as the student radicals believed but a bloody totalitarian murderous winner kill all revolution, and, finally the themes of the American Young Leftists, Radicals in SNCC, the Weathermen, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Eric Chester and many of the other radicals of that time many of whom I ‘met’ by going to meetings public and ‘underground’ and listening to their ideologies. I was truly the naive student researching for my paper and my friends always teased me as the sexually backward student ‘researching’ prostitution in the seamy sides of town in order ‘to get laid.’ Instead my mind got ‘blown.’ {No pun intended!]

I have never forgotten those lessons. All fascists, radicals, fundamentalists, terrorists, fanatics, zealots are more of less the same. An echo I saw early this moring on MSN news before 5 a.m. was a video on the similarities between Boston Marathon Bombers and the current Paris Charles Hebdon satire magazine massacre’ists. Disempowered people, often ‘losers,’ poor weak identies, alienated from really any stable social system/family, angry, blaming the system, etc. They are ALL the same no what the specific ideology. They always see the solution as best being implemented in the most firm dictatorial authoritarian manner possible, through terrorist violence and ‘revolution.’ Their system of belief is always superior all others. Free speech is dangerous, letting people become educated and to think for themselves is dangerous. Does the Taliban come to mind? How about even in this country the ultra-right (or also the ultra-left liberals) who all think their educational systems with rigid tenets that are more “anti” than evidence based are RIGHT. All else is heresy, blasphemy, science gone bad, a ‘hidden agenda,’ all the code phrases in all parts of the world where the struggle between the modern and the feudal, totalitarian, anti-progress, anti-knowledge movements are in play for control of their regions, even of the world. Nazi Germany, apartheid, American racist ideology of slavery, American subjugation of Native Americans, our current anti-immigrant hysteria, our anti-intellectualism embodied in the Bush administration’s condemnation of stem cell research, which incidentally saved my life from multiple myeloma, all are manifestations of this malignant modern day knowledge struggle as I call it.

I remember the many slogans of the American Radical student movement, most of which I thought were ridiculous. Abbie Hoffman even parodied them in his unforgettable title of his book Steal This Book which incidentally was hiliarious. And this leads to my main point: authoritarian radical fanatics have no sense of humor. This may sound trivial and dumb but it is one of the most telling of their attributes. It is currently embodied in the reasons behind the bombing in ?2011 of the Charlie Hebdon offices and the walk in massacre of the 12 staff just three days ago. That satirical magazine’s parodies were funny to many even within Islam. We have our own running gag about Jesus in the national running joke with a million variations of: “What Would Jesus Do?” I haven’t seen anyone struck down by lightning by constructing and telling their own variation of this. I am Jewish so I do not make such jokes as but I make goofy Jewish Rabbi jokes and Bubbe jokes and such. I feel that I should only joke about my kind but I RESPECT the right of others to poke fun at my religion and when the joke is a good and pointed one, on the satirical Mort Sahl plane of discourse, I laugh as hard as I feel like it. Radicals do not laugh and they react in predictable ways that do not fit their view of things, of how things should be. A corollary to this is that they cannot tolerate ambuigity. I am a psychiatrist, and as I like to say, in my profession I live in ambiguity. Those who cannot do so, react with rigidity, fear of the unknown, of what may become known that may upset or challenge their world view. So satire, humor, parody is dangerous for them.

I subscribe to a monthly old style paper newsletter of comedy and satire, a subscription originally given to me as a gift by a dear long term friend who also shares an affection for satire, humor and keeping ourselves honest through humor. It is called Funny Times and it would not be well received in any rigid, anti-modernistic, anti-science, fanatic community or society. But it is free to poke fun in our society with our long cherished values of freedom of opinion and speech. Those set us apart from the fanatics of the world.

So for now the name Charlie means to me the embodiment of self awareness, humor, useful satire that makes us examine anything and everything that needs review, our politics, our sacred cows, laws that make no sense, even beliefs that need examination, meditative development to the highest compassionate plane, and a tolerant person and society.

In keeping with that, I fervently hope the two terrorist brothers in Paris are captured alive. I know many want revenge and would be happy to see them killed in an out of control suicidal shoot out. I do not. As I heard yesterday in an interview on NPR with a mother who was injured severely and lost part of a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, nothing would be improved or changed by use of the death penalty. It would only satisfy base and primitive urges and in my view does not serve much good purpose if any at all.


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