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As I See It: The pen and the sword

The written word has literally changed the world or major parts of it ever since man first figured out how to capture thoughts and ideas and preserve them so others could see them.

The written word has literally changed the world or major parts of it ever since man first figured out how to capture thoughts and ideas and preserve them so others could see them.

From the earliest pictures on cave walls to stone tablets, animal skins, papyrus, parchment and all the way to modern printing, we humans have been capturing our thoughts.

You can probably come up with your own list of the most important books and writings. My list includes the Bible, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the Federalist Papers, Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and many volumes of philosophy, theology and logical reasoning.

I would have to include the Quran, although I have not read the entire book. "Das Kapital" and "Mein Kampf" certainly belong in a list of influential tomes, along with the Communist Manifesto.

Every one of these books has changed people and their thinking - for the better or the worse.

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Another important book I read is "The Sacred and the Profane." It showcases how we try to influence the thoughts of others by labeling people and things as sacred (good) and profane (bad).

At least in the United States and in the more developed parts of the world, we have a definite knack for profaning all that is sacred while somehow treating the inane as sacred. You don't have to look any farther than the lunacy of political correctness to see the truth in my last statement.

One of the basic freedoms we enjoy in our country is the freedom of expression. Satire is one of those forms of expression. It is defined as the use of wit, especially irony, sarcasm and ridicule to criticize faults.

Most of the time, those faults are real. And the closer to the actual truth, the more biting and effective is satire.

In my formative years I was a great fan of MAD Magazine and also Art Buchwald. MAD's satire was aimed at everyone and everything. I spent many hours reading and rereading those magazines, which if they were still in my possession would have made me fairly rich.

Art Buchwald was as adept as MAD at satire, but in a much more classy vein, and he almost always dealt with politics and politicians. The editor, writers and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo carried on the tradition of social, cultural and political satire.

We need those who point out the ironies in ourselves and others - whether we think them funny or not.

Often we do not see the disconnect between what we preach and what we practice. Having those ironies presented to us should cause us to re-examine our thoughts, beliefs and behavior to ensure they are all in synch.

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Islam believes the Quran is a sacred book and to defame it or Mohammed the Prophet is punishable by death as exemplified once more by the actions of Islamic militants in their murderous rampage in Paris, France.

The militants feel fully justified in their actions and many believers openly or tacitly agree with them. The Islamic Clergy often provides direct ideological rationale and support during the process of the militants' radicalization.

In opposition to this, we have the freedoms of the western world that allow us to think, say or write nearly anything. I don't think we should ridicule the Bible or the Quran; Catholicism or Islam.

Unfortunately, there are some people who go well beyond the boundaries of good taste (don't ask me to define those, please) and reasonable decorum to levels of obscenity and beyond.

But we don't kill any of them. Nor do we condone the killing of anyone simply for an unwise, ill-timed, blasphemous or even blatantly disgusting speech or book.

While there are statements made by those in power who seek to denigrate the accomplishments of the United States of America and criticize its culture seeking to downplay our influence throughout the world, we are still an overwhelmingly Christian nation with a Christianity that includes a rich heritage and links to Judaism.

We welcome people of all cultures and faiths who wish to share our freedom in peace and with respect for all others. We will not bend to those who wish or believe otherwise.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but in the final analysis the cross represents the mightiest force of all.

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That's the way I see it.

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