Inbox – January 28, 2015

LEO Weekly welcomes letters that are brief (350 words max) and thoughtful. 
Ad hominem attacks will be ignored, and we need your name and a daytime phone number. Send snail mail to Inbox, 607 W. Main St., Suite 001, Louisville, Ky. 40202. Fax to 895-9779 or email to [email protected] We may edit for length, grammar and clarity.

‘Books of the Bluegrass’
One Kentucky author overlooked [in last week’s feature] was Louisville’s Dan Barth, a graduate of Trinity ’70.  Although having reestablished residency in Mendocino, California, he easily deserves mentioned merit. Mr. Barth’s decisive entry would be “The Day after Hank Williams Birthday: Prose Pieces and Poem.” As a collection of some 35 vignettes, several contain local references, including UofL basketball and a hilarious tale of a trip gone bad departing Gerstle’s Place.
Lance Crady, 40206

Response to Rucker’s
Charlie Hebdo Column

Erica Rucker (LEO Jan. 21) finds mitigating factors in defense of the craven murderers who — to the eternal glory of their faith — gunned down some journalists. It sounded creepily like those who blame the rape victim for dressing too provocatively.
Free speech is either free or it is censored. There is no in between. It can be entirely censored by totalitarians. It can be self-censored by mild-mannered editors and writers. Once it is lost, it is hard to get back … from an insipid editorial in the C-J printed right next to still another letter from a worker in the religious industry, saying Charlie went “too far.” There is no too far if speech is truly free. Church leaders, of course, do not have a great track record on the free speech issue.
Rucker even blames Western Civilization for 9/11. Well, sure, assuming our mere presence was enough to warrant such an atrocity. Enlightened ideas are always subject to attack from those who would drag us back to the ninth century, when one of the three great hoaxes was perpetrated, or even the fourth century when another was patched together.
Ed Willard, Crescent Hill

Dear Ms. Rucker,
I think that you’re trying to be fair, but I fear that in a goodhearted effort you have imbibed the same dangerous ideas recently communicated by the Catholic Pope: that Freedom of Speech should be limited, that the unarmed victims of aggression surely did something to deserve their fate, or (worst of all) that there is a cohesive, anti-freedom ideology in “the Muslim world.”
I implore you not to imbibe the insulting stereotypes about Islam propagated by Fox News and others. The same vibrant tradition of liberal reform that led to the Arab Spring and impelled Malala Yousafazi to pursue education and empowerment against the forces of violent Islamists has been alive and well for decades.
Maajid Nawaz’s famous conversion from his Islamist career in Hizb al-Tahrir (from which organizations like Al Qaeda later sprang), and his work to promote a liberal vision of Islam and to fight the imperialist totalitarianism of the Islamists are laudable examples of this same spirit, and you would do well to read his memoir “Radical: My Journey Out of Extremism.” He deconstructs the Western Colonialist underpinnings of the Islamist dreams of Khalifa. He also destroys the Western conception of a monolithic, freedom-hating/primitive view of Islam as a whole (the sad error of many American liberals and conservatives alike). This good-faith study would be a good start to your commendable desire to understand the motivations of such attacks.
This brings us to a fundamental point: The Charlie Hebdo attacks were an act of war by a totalitarian ideology on a land of freedom. If you don’t like freedom of speech, then either respond to the speech you don’t like with your own free speech, or leave the speakers alone and live elsewhere. But murder and violence are hardly justified because of (legitimate or illegitimate) ideology and grievances. Don’t get me wrong — there are grievances (Bosnia, colonialism, collateral damage from a plethora of wars, etc.). That’s not an excuse to attack unarmed purveyors of satire.
That is the bottom line, though, isn’t it?  Those who wish to establish totalitarian control fear free expression more than anything else, for it is the most fundamental and basic element of liberty.  Without challenging narratives, the totalitarian ideology remains unchallenged (incidentally, this is why the Taliban resists education for women in the same way that white slaveholders forbade their slaves to be taught to read — knowledge brings freedom). Let us never give up our precious and hard-earned liberties to bullies and thugs who are too afraid to face criticism, questioning, or even satire. Whether they be Inquisitors, Stalinists, or Islamists.
Freedom of expression undergirds freedom of religion — in attacking the former, religious totalists are tragically and ironically attacking the latter.
Daniel Brown

Ms. Rucker,
I read your column in LEO’s Jan. 21 issue with great interest.
You completely captured the essence of the Charlie Hebdo issue in eight paragraphs where others have failed in pages.
Ralph Adams, 40208