3 important things to remember when talking about terrorism, guns, and free speech.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

In 2015 two men walked into the offices of the French satirical magazine and opened fire, killing 12 people. The tragedy sparked an international period of mourning and an inundation of the slogan "Je suis Charlie" meaning "I am Charlie."


"Je suis Charlie" spray painted onto a Paris street. Photo by Joel Sagat/AFP/Getty Images.

The magazine was attacked for publishing several controversial depictions of the prophet Mohammad over the years, including one on the cover in 2011.

While it's been a year since the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo, it's only been two months since the terrorist attack that killed 130 people in the same city.

Here in America, it's been a little over three years since 27 people were killed at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, but it's only been six weeks since the Colorado Springs shooting that killed three, and less than 40 days since the shooting that killed 14 in San Bernardino, California.

The point I'm approaching here really isn't a new one. I'm not the first to point out that it often feels like we're living in a mad world where every week our phones light up with a news notification about gun violence or terrorism. They're becoming ubiquitous.

Don't worry, this isn't going to be just another, "Hey, we should do something about this" article. We should ... but there are enough of those.

Instead, let's look at how we think about these events.

Terrorism, gun violence, and the consequences of free speech aren't simple problems. We shouldn't talk about them as if they have simple solutions.

While politicians and media make it seem as though standing on one side of an issue means disparaging anyone who disagrees with you, most people fall somewhere more in the middle. And many people feel that they can't say how they feel without being attacked or having assumptions made about their character.

It happens on both sides of every issue.

President Obama addressed many of the complexities of gun violence at a town hall on Jan. 7, 2015. Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images

As we move forward, let's face the fact that simple, one-sided, un-evolved opinions don't really solve problems. We all have to apply a little more brain power to our world views and start recognizing some dualities and nuance.

It may not be easy, but here are three simple places to start:

1. You can hate terrorism without being Islamophobic.

Terrorism is undoubtedly terrifying. That's why it's called terror-ism.

And it's OK to be afraid of it. It's OK for you to want your country to do everything in its power prevent tragedies like 9/11 or San Bernardino from ever happening again. Lately though, being anti-terrorism has started to get confusing, as more and more people insist on equating terrorism with Muslims.

In America at least, a lot of people are scoring major points for simply equating the religion of Islam with terrorism. Not just presidential candidates with weird hair either.

Liberal champion Bill Maher has recently come under fire for his comments about Muslims. Saying things like,"For the last 30 years, it's been one culture that has been been blowing s--t up over and over again."

Comedian Bill Maher speaking in 2011. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

The fact is Islamophobia and terrorism aren't things we can properly address with talk show one-liners.

There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world. To suggest they all have a hand in terrorism is morally and mathematically ridiculous and to recommend that starving, desperate refugees be banned from the United States because of their religion is not only silly but dangerous.

Especially since (and I can't believe I have to say this) terrorism isn't inherently Muslim. If it was, you would think Indonesia — the most Muslim country in the world — would be a breeding ground for extremism. It isn't. Not to mention, studies have shown that white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists are responsible for a lot more terror in America than Islamic extremism.

Furthermore, treating Muslims as individuals who aren't terrorists by nature should not be seen as a sign of weakness or an inability to lead. It should be seen as the viewpoint of an adult who recognizes that people are individuals.

Everyone hates terrorism. It doesn't mean you have to hate 1.6 billion people.

2. You can be pro guns AND pro gun-control.

Chances are, if you're a gun owner, you already do support gun control. 85% of gun owners support universal background checks, which makes sense because responsible gun owners wouldn't be affected by them at all.

Once again, we have a problem that is complex and multifaceted but is only being publicly addressed through simplified rhetoric.

You're either "pro-guns," meaning you want guns in everyone's hands all the time every day, or you're "anti-guns," meaning you want to round up everyone's guns and throw them into a big fire along with the Constitution.

At least that's how the debate is broken down in the media. The issue of gun violence is, if you can believe it, (say it with me) not that simple.

Supporting tighter restrictions on guns doesn't mean you despise the Second Amendment, and being a gun owner doesn't mean you despise gun control. It also doesn't mean you're a redneck doomsday prepper or that you're not a responsible person.

New York Senator Charles Schumer with a delegation of gun owners who support common sense gun laws. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for MoveOn.org

In France, where the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the attack at the Bataclan theater happened just last year, it's estimated that civilians hold 19 million guns — putting the country in fifth place globally for gun ownership. France also has restrictive gun control laws and about one-eighteenth of the gun homicides that we have in America. (Roughly 1,856 in 2012 versus America's 33,563 in the same year.)

People can own guns responsibly and accept restrictions on their ability to do so. France knows that. Essentially, the entire modern world knows that. Deep down, you probably know it too.

3. You can support free speech and also find things offensive.

The Charlie Hebdo attack was, at its core, an attack on free speech.

Whether or not the 2011 cover photo was offensive, funny, provocative, Islamophobic, satirical, or all of the above is certainly a debate worth having. In fact, it's probably the debate that the Charlie Hebdo staff was trying to have when they published it.

Instead, they were killed for it, and we never got that debate. An open door was slammed shut.

The Charlie Hebdo cover marking the first anniversary of the attack. Photo by Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images.

In America, where free speech is written into our constitution, the attack raised a lot of questions about what it means and spurned many discussions regarding what you "can" and "can't" say, do, joke about, write about, or draw a picture of. It also raised a lot of questions about what you "should" and "shouldn't" be offended by and what you "should" or "shouldn't" do if something you've done has offended someone.

The problem is, those are hard lines. As soon as you draw them, the ability to have an open discussion about the issue (aka the most important part of solving a problem) gets lost.

It's a big world out there. People are going to say things you disagree with. That's OK. You may find yourself offended by the words of another person. That's OK too.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from disagreement or consequence. That being said, we all want to live in a world where death is never one of those consequences.

In theory, freedom of speech should look like this: A person says something. Someone else says, "That offends me for the following reasons." They can then get together and discuss it. See how that works? Also, did you notice the part where no one killed anybody?

But we don't live in that America, do we? We live in the one where your ideas are right, the others are wrong, and you better set up your fortress quick because the other side is coming to tear down everything you believe in.

In politics, especially, rhetoric has become more and more extreme to the point where it actually can cost people their lives.

Take the attack at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, where three people were killed by a lone gunman who reportedly told police, "no more baby parts," after he was arrested.

Many have drawn a connection from the violence perpetrated against Planned Parenthood (and other women's health facilities) to the inflammatory rhetoric used by the anti-abortion movement, which has been adopted by many presidential candidates and politicians who want to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion access.

Planned Parenthood, as well as other abortion providers, have seen a sharp increase in violence over the past year. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in her statement following the attack: "We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months. That environment breeds acts of violence."

See, it's not the ideas themselves that get people killed. It's the extremity with which they're presented and the inability or refusal to listen to or respect any other ideas.

When discourse goes away, beliefs get extreme, and when beliefs get extreme, they can become dangerous.

You can fundamentally disagree with someone without wanting to censor them. They can tell you not to be offended by it, but you can use your free speech to tell them why it's offensive. At the same time, you can also be offended by a cartoon without needing to kill the person who drew it.

These points shouldn't sound complicated. They're not.

You probably fall into one of these grey areas yourself. That's good. It's good when things aren't binary.

Progress happens when we recognize the fact that problems of this scale aren't simple and static, but they need to be changed through understanding and compromise.

From now on, instead of buying into the constant barrage of "this" versus "that" rhetoric, we should embrace the nuance. It's where the progress is hiding.

In the year since Charlie Hebdo, we've only gotten more divided.

Let's stop thinking of everything in terms of "sides." Pro-guns versus anti-guns, pro-refugees versus anti-Islam, Republican versus Democrat. Those boxes we put ourselves in aren't real. They're comfortable and they're easier, but they aren't always helpful.

Fewer people should die tragically. That's the only side worth taking, and it's the one we're all on.

That's a good place to start.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less