I am Charlie. Offend me!

I have the right to be offended. I don’t mean I have the right to feel offended, although of course I do. I mean I have the right to have people offend me. I have the human right to have someone print or say words or make drawings or cartoons that I don’t like, that I think are stupid or miss the point or are holding back progress or are just ugly.

Some offenses I have suffered: Being told I’m a racist or a left wing nut. Being told I’m unfit for medical school as a pregnant woman. Being called a castrating bitch (seriously?) Hearing a respected mentor tell me I wouldn’t seriously trust a doctor wearing the shortest dreads allowed by the laws of biophysics. To have men assume I’m no good at my job for no apparent reason. To be told by atheists, whose company I left, that I’m just wrong. Having a local paper print “Doonesbury” on the editorial page and then having to see “Mallard Fillmore” alongside it. I could go on. So many things I am supposed to be offended by don’t bother me. That offends friends sometimes which offends me. Snuff films on cable news stations who won’t show Charlie Hebdo drawings

I am often entertained. I want to be simultaneously shocked, amused, and puzzled.

But mostly I like to think my motivation reflects two beliefs in essentials of our society. First, I want everyone to have as much free speech as we can stand. If we can’t cling desperately to our First Amendment, we aren’t America as it was conceived. Second, I want honesty. Without that I can’t respond constructively internally or in actual debate. I want be uncomfortable. I want to be engaged. I want chances to learn something from people outside my bubble. I want the chance to come to a mutual understanding or to really see a fundamental true disagreement. I want us all to get along. I claim the right to be offended and to offend. I plan on continuing to exercise those rights whenever I think it’s called for. I am Charlie.

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