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Checkpoint Charlie, That Indefinable Jewel We Call Freedom

This thing called freedom lives in its most extreme form in satire, which by definition can never be blasphemy.

Love is stronger than hate
Love is stronger than hate
Massimo Gramellini


TURIN — To those who take on pencils with machine guns, to anyone who submits to something other than their own conscience, we wish we could explain that exhausting and most excellent adventure that is freedom.

But the thing is, freedom is not something that can be explained. It just is, and we mourn it when it's gone. Unlike dogmas, freedom neither claims nor offers any certainties. It is made up of doubts and errors, impulses and abuses. And its weakness is a lack of boundaries, which takes away the subtle pleasure of breaking the rules.

The extreme form of freedom is satire, and for many people this is incomprehensible. It is offensive, provocative and disrespectful by definition, pushing its points of view so firmly in the limelight. And thus, it is detested by holders of absolute truth and proponents of religious ideology, which also now includes the "politically correct" truth held dear to many Americans.

Satire can never be blasphemous because it does not trade in the absolute but in the relative. It deals not with spirituality but with humanity. Satire isn't disrespectful to God — if anything, just to the men who use God to dominate other men.

Charlie Hebdo"s cartoon that may have cost the authors their lives depicted a Prophet desperate for a tax on the stupidity of Islamic fundamentalists. It wasn't an attack on Muhammad, but on a group of superstitious and ignorant fanatics who kill in the Prophet's name the women who want to attend school and men who drink or smoke.

Since the attack, some, including the Financial Times, have criticized the cartoonists for "baiting" Muslims as thought this were some kind of justification for the crime. There was a time not long ago when infidelity was considered an extenuating circumstance for killing your wife, and miniskirts the same for rapists. The day will come when the use — and abuse — of satire will become something that goes without saying. But, meanwhile, the war continues, and we're fighting it within ourselves.

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The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

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