There are few things in this world we can all agree upon, once politics casts its long shadow. But I doubt you'll find many who don't believe that today's rally and solidarity march in Paris -- on behalf of the satirists, the police officers and the Jewish victims of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in France last week -- was one of the most moving and powerful events we've seen in the public arena for a long, long time.

More than 1 million people packed the expansive Place de la République and surrounding districts, in what experts believe was the largest rally in the history of France, which is pretty amazing when you think about all the political convulsions that have rocked Paris from 1789 to 1968 and beyond. The march was noteworthy for all the world leaders -- not just from Europe but also Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to many Arab kings, presidents and prime ministers -- who for at least one day were in lockstep (and shame on President Obama for not being there, and on the presidential hopefuls who were tweeting the NFL but forgot Paris). But what stood out was the diversity of the crowd, including a healthy showing of the "moderate Muslims" who get accused of never speaking out against terror.  To borrow a phrase, it was liberty, equality and brotherhood at its best, overwhelming a week of senseless violence and sorrow.

Of course, the march was not only a condemnation of terrorism but a celebration of both free assembly and free expression -- the thing that two murderous thugs tried to stop Tuesday in their attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that claimed 12 lives, the start of a bloody week in which 17 innocent victims died across the Paris area. It's a pretty safe bet that 99 percent, give or take, of Americans had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before last week; I know I hadn't. But within minutes, many folks -- especially journalists, cartoonists, and others who've devoted their working life to some form of creative expression -- raced to tweet or otherwise voice solidarity with the victims. An attack on a publication on the other side of the world is an attack on all of us. "#JeSuis Charlie," or "I am Charlie." I wrote that last Wednesday, and I proudly stand by that.

It was only after we'd all declared ourselves Charlie Hebdo that we started to actually read..ourselves. Some people were appalled by Charlie Hebdo, for a wide variety of reasons. Catholic activist Bill Donahue issued a statement (repulsive, in my opinion) that seemed to shrug off violence at a publication that had been just as blasphemous to the Vatican as to Muhammad. Elitist David Brooks of the New York Times sniffed at the juvenile and often offensive cartoons. But some of the sharpest criticism came from liberals, and understandably so. Too many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons reeked of xenophobia, racism, and the like. Some began to tweet, "#JeNeSuisPasCharlie." "I am not Charlie."

When it comes to the actual cartoons, I'm not very much Charlie, not really. It's not because (at the terrifying risk of sounding like David Brooks) a lot of the magazine's cartoons are sophomoric and none were particularly funny to my American-fried taste. (But then I don't get Jerry Lewis, either.) As for the many blasphemous cartoons against all faiths...there should be no sacred cows, especially at the top of organized religions, but I can't say I'm a fan of gratuitously offending everyday people's core beliefs. The most bothersome issue was the seeming casual racism of some CH cartoons, such as portraying a black French cabinet member as a monkey or depicting the sex slaves of Boko Haram as "welfare queens." How do you go from a year of proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter to celebrating those drawings?

You can't.

And yet the so-called debate over being or not being Charlie Hebdo is kind of silly. I think most of us agree that other people have a right to express what they believe -- even those ideas that we find most offensive. We should condemn government repression of free speech (Quick aside: Pretty much all of the world leaders who marched in Paris have silenced expression in their own country...I am shocked, shocked to find hypocrisy among world leaders!) and especially violence intended to silence others. We should be just as outraged -- if not more so -- when the target of bloodshed is someone we disagree with.

But it's important to note some corollaries. This whole free speech thingee doesn't work unless you can -- and do -- criticize the ideas that you disagree with with equal liberty and with full force. Related: You also can -- and should -- criticize powerful institutions that hand a megaphone to people with anti-social ideas (for example, that time the Inquirer provided a platform for torture architect John Yoo, whom I believe should be charged with war crimes. And -- and this is especially important in the matter of Charlie Hebdo -- no one can force you to publish or voice an idea that you don't agree with.

It's kind of silly to see some people bully and denounce publications that won't print some or all of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons. Attempting to force somebody to say or somehow promulgate something he or she doesn't believe is pretty much the 180-degree polar opposite of free speech, isn't it? When all is said and done, humankind must be free to be Charlie Hebdo, and yet we must be free to not be Charlie Hebdo. Otherwise, we are not truly free.