By Harmesh Bhambra '16
Earlier this year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, ChiBus hosted a range of views from Booth students. One article focused on the need for satire and another writer expressed his thoughts on the fallacy of absolute freedom. The publication of these diverse views was enabled by the values of the University of Chicago and ChiBus -- institutions that fiercely protect freedom of expression; believe that argument and ideas cannot be muffled by a gun; know that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
After gunmen stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in January, liberty lived on. The irreverent satire of Charlie Hebdo continued to be published (and now has more readers than ever before). And in a secular country where most Parisiens are not engaged in a clash of ideologies, they, amidst heightened security, continued to enjoy what one of the world’s greatest cities has to offer -- rich culture, many public spaces, brilliant food, liberty.
After the dreadful attacks in Beirut on November 13 and Paris on November 14, liberty will still live on. Beirut, despite the years of sectarian strife and civil war in the 70’s and 80’s, continues to be one of the most vibrant cities in the Middle East and is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. Paris exemplifies what is great about modern cities and the modern world: a surfeit of people living in dense confines who see similarity as sharing a common environment with people of all ethnicities, beliefs and stripes, not like the perpetrators who narrowly define similarity as identity -- looking like each other and believing in the same things. It is this common sympathy that led to the #PorteOuverte (#OpenDoor) initiative on the night of the Paris attacks where residents offered their homes as safe havens to anyone. It is this common sympathy that led many Boothies in Chicago to express their feelings on Facebook, offer support and discuss the implications.
On November 11 we honored those who died in the First World War. Now we also honor a different type of freedom fighter -- those fallen, in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, in the Sinai, and across the world, who, despite threats to their liberty, continued to speak, read and be. They knew that life enriched by sharing, speaking and laughing is infinitely better than the rigid gloom proposed by the attackers.
When our values we hold so dear are under threat we need to declare as loudly and as often as possible that these are not open for negotiation. Liberty is for every person on this earth, from Paris to Beirut, and from Baghdad to Chicago -- and we will make sure that liberty lives on.
Harmesh is a second-year MBA student.