Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie
Bonjour, je suis Charlie. No, I’m not converting this into a blog written in French; my skills are nowhere near to up to it. But today, je suis Charlie.

I woke to the news that gunmen had massacred the staff of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. I had heard of the magazine before, though I’ve never read it. If I’m going to read a French periodical, it’s typically Têtu, the French LGBT magazine. I always figured that Charlie Hebdo would be a mix of cultural references I didn’t know (“who is that guy supposed to be?”) and slang that was unaware of (“there’s no entry for that in my Larousse”). But today, je suis Charlie.

The early news on the massacre reported that the gunmen yelled out slogans in Arabic. The police have identified three suspects, but until the police actually name the suspects and a case is made, I don’t want to leap to any conclusions. On the other hand, I don’t want to be Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, who actually sympathized with the killers. The one consolation is that it shows that Bill Donahue doesn’t have to be lying about gay people in order to be a disgusting asshole. In a reasonable world, no journalist would ever again want to sit near Donahue. He made his remarks on CNN; I’m sure they’ll have him back.

Raw Story points to Juan Cole as having the smartest response to the attack. He wrote that the attack was “aiming at polarizing the French and European public.” I have seen on other sites that American armchair leaders, safe behind the comfort of a pseudonym, have been encouraging the French to cast out their Moslem citizens, in other words, do exactly what al-Qaeda needs to be able to recruit in France.

But what we cannot do is allow violence to silence us. I too, have that armchair luxury; no one is going to come to my front door with a gun over something I’ve written; I’m simply not that confrontational, nor do I think I have any particular skill for writing satire. The only appropriate response to satire is more satire, never violence. The only appropriate response to violence in an attempt to silence satire is more satire.

Phillipe Val, the former publisher of Charlie Hebdo said that
It might be good if tomorrow, all newspapers were called Charlie Hebdo. If we titled them all Charlie Hebdo. If all of France was Charlie Hebdo.
If there were an easy way to retitle this blog Charlie Hebdo, I would. Because today, and on any day when someone thinks that violence is an appropriate response to free speech, je suis Charlie.

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