January 8, 2015

I often write satirically, and I often (not deliberately) offend someone. That person never lets me have it in public, but I get the occasional private message. It is so easy to offend—merely speak your mind.

The irony of the French situation is that France outlawed burkas. Free speech can be ugly.

But I did get threatened. During the Ferguson tragedy, I was at a local store and a bunch of river rats freely used the word “nigger.” And I spoke: “That language is offensive and racist.”

Four of the men turned toward me and moved in as a u-shaped line, me backing up to the entrance door. One of the men pulled up his sweater to reveal a pistol in a holster. Words were not needed. I walked out.

Once friendly people who called me by name, now glare at me, the guy who objects to hate speech. I no longer patronize the store.

I broke my Midwestern child training early on. I kept dutiful and quiet, until I got big enough (and smart enough) that my father couldn’t threaten me anymore. I found a voice. I will not be silenced. The silence, on Facebook, regarding murder of artists, of children, of women, is deafening and oh-so-Midwestern.

Killing unarmed children is murder. Killing artists because they get under the flesh to the truth, is murder. Killing in the name of any god is murder. Killing anyone because of the color of their skin (when if fact there is one human species, and color is a function of climate) is murder.

Murder might shut up an individual, but thousands will come afterwards and be heard. The man with the gun was a coward. The man with a pen was as brave as they come.

To paraphrase Charlie, the French editor, I would rather die on my feet than on my knees.

Je suis Charlie.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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3 Responses to Brave

  1. Patty says:

    Good for you for speaking up. Not many people would. People are ignorant. I enjoy your writing. Hope you feel better soon. My husband has been coughing since Christmas so I know what you are going through a little bit.

  2. Penny says:

    Gene, you may remember me from the library (I’m at the downtown location now). I just wanted to say I applaud you for speaking up and:
    “Beneath the rule of men entirely great
    The pen is mightier than the sword.”
    Je suis Charlie.

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