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.

More
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

Most Shared
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family