Those who live by the sword do not always die by it. Sometimes, they die in bed: of something much more drawn out. Henry VIII, of the multiple beheadings, and all those lovely ruined abbeys, springs to mind.
I spent a few years as a small-town journalist. During that time, I heard and wrote about several strange, even disturbing things. I also wrote a column expressing concern for a young woman who had abandoned her baby. In amongst “Letters to the Editor” complaining about bin collections, I received one from a reader who asked how I could hold such a clearly outrageous opinion.
I was surprised. I was also naive. Small town stuff. A tiny storm in a suburban ink pot.
Not a bloodbath in the Parisian equivalent of “Private Eye.”
A few thoughts amidst this chaos of horror:
1) Blasphemy laws: for gods’ sake, why?
Not everyone sees God the same way. We need to look past our own stained glass windows, and accept this. And then move on. Politely, and with compassion.
2) In less nervous times, people regularly said, wrote, drew, etc., things all the time which were:
b) deliberately outrageous
d) some combination if not all of the above
And the world and its hamster judged the speaker, writer, artist, etc. accordingly. Generally, by giving them the time of day. Or not. It wasn’t always felt necessary to prosecute, let alone kill them. Or, indeed, ban the expression of their ideas.
3) At various points in human history, people of all cultures, faiths and opinions have gone over the top about books, cartoons, films, and the like. There have been many burnings, bannings, warnings and bleepings-out of words and images.
Those doing the burning and banning would probably say they were doing it “for our own good”.
4) As comedian Caroline Aherne’s character, Mrs Merton, liked to say, “Let’s have a heated debate.”
May our words be heated. Not our fires, to burn books with. Nor our forges, for turning plowshares into swords.
And may the pen prove the mightier.