It’s been just over a week since three Islamic extremists, trained by al-Qaida, went on a murderous rampage in Paris, France, killing 12 journalists who had been armed only with their pens, pencils, strong opinions and a printing press at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The terrorists then continued their rampage, targeting a kosher supermarket and taking hostages. Four hostages were killed in the police siege; the three suspects were also killed.

These Islamic extremists said they wanted to die as martyrs for their cause, to take revenge on the staff of a magazine that has depicted their prophet Muhammad on various covers. Ironically, they didn’t die as martyrs for their cause, their cause to do right by their prophet. They died because they are psychopaths, killing unarmed individuals. Any person who is willing to and does kill unarmed people isn’t fighting fairly; such people are fighting for their cause in the most egregious way. It’s shameful at best, horrific and despicable at worst. Further, those who were murdered for their opinions, their right to free speech, are the actual martyrs. Too bad the extremists are too blinded by their own destructive and disturbing perspectives to understand that.

This kind of barbaric treatment of journalists, not to mention the treacherous treatment of opposing religions, is nothing new. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, for 2014, 221 journalists were imprisoned worldwide, many on trumped up charges that had nothing to do with their assignments. In 2013, 211 journalists were imprisoned; in 2012; 232. The apparent reasons for their imprisonments: questioning governments and publishing information that put officials in a bad light. Additionally, according to a report by the same group, 1,109 journalists have been killed since 1992 while doing their jobs, including covering dangerous assignments and being caught in crossfire. The truly disheartening statistic, however, is that 487 were murdered for doing their jobs. While many journalists and editors have fairly safe assignments, those willing to go after the truth, who are willing to die and do die for it, those people not only stand for everything that all journalists do, but for every person who exercises the right to free speech and who questions the powers that be.

Because of this wretched tragedy in Paris, a truly remarkable and amazing thing happened. On Monday, Jan. 11, approximately 1.6 million people gathered on the streets of Paris while the turnout across France was at least 3.7 million, plus 40 world leaders, protesters of different religions and opinions all joining together in solidarity against such acts of terrorism. This historic turnout surely proves violence and intimidation will only fail in the long run.
In a discussion about the murders in Paris, a gun rights advocate weighed in on the subject, saying that Americans have the right to free speech through the First Amendment because we have the right to bear arms, the philosophy apparently being that the threat of violence protects our other rights. But this thought is all wrong. Neither violence nor the threat of violence serves as a reason why we have such freedoms or as an excuse to uphold certain opinions. It is the thirst for knowledge, truth and understanding that makes so many willing to join together and also willing to die for these principles.

Je suis Charlie. (I am Charlie.)