Je Suis Charlie

We are less than a week into 2015, and terror has already raised its ugly head. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an assault on freedom of expression, a vicious act aimed to destroy the possibilities for a culture with a place for provocation. Without the spaces cleared by provocative writers and artists, none of us would have the freedom to read, write, view or listen. The killings in Paris today were meant to terrorize those who would challenge the status quo with their drawings and words. Instead, this shameful act should inspire us to cherish freedom of speech and to support the artists and writers courageous enough to challenge us.

As writer Neil Gaiman tweeted today: “How important are free speech and satire? Important enough that people will murder others to silence the kind of speech they don’t like.”

Je Suis Charlie
Je Suis Charlie

5 thoughts on “Je Suis Charlie”

  1. Fragments from Paris, January 8th: The city is ‘sous le shock.’ – Wed. afternoon in a café, Place de la Bastille, a gentleman sits at a corner table, calling friends: he was there; he witnessed the attack. He retells the events, calls another friend, and tells the horror again. On the cafe television, video of the assault plays over and over. The waitress comes to my table. When I mention that this is a replay for me…I was at Ground Zero…she stays by the table and talks: All of her friends are journalists. This is an attack on us all. In the evening, my wife and I have agreed to meet at the Louvre.The exhibit on medieval Morocco is a blockbuster, but we have no stomach for it tonight. the museum is empty. There, we run into 2 colleagues from the University (Paris-VII); 4 of us stand in the midst of the splendor, ignoring the art. How to defend against this bloody attack against Republican values?
    Thursday morning: under a gray sky, the city comes to life slowly; nobody is rushing to work. The radio replays interviews with several of the murdered journalists at ‘Charlie Hebdo.’ There is talk of a large rally on Saturday. For now, there are police sirens everywhere, like Manhattan in the days after 9-11. 16 CRS vehicles are lined up, Pl. de la Bastille. Waiting.
    I have come to Paris to speak at the Sorbonne tomorrow… about medieval Morocco. The talk sits in my briefcase. For the moment, it is difficult to see the relevance of 16th century slavery to the violence of today.

  2. Good as far as it went Michael, but you forgot to state that this heinous crime was caused by Islamic extremists.. WHO CAUSE MOSt OF THE TERROR ATTACKS on Freedom of Expression…Why are you reluctant to state who the perpetrators were?

  3. It is good to feel that France is surrrounded by so many friends sharing the same principles of freedom and democracy. Thanks! Yet this hideous attack shoud remind all us that we , western civilisation , are in war since September 11th . Fighting only with weapons is, however, not enough; we need also politicians who make true politics in order to establish long lasting peaces after wars. This implies a long term vision of foreign politics: unfortunately Irak, Libia and Siria are not good examples of how to manage geopolitics. In these days of pain for my Country my heart goes also to thousands and thousands of victims of this islamist fanatism around the world. Tomorrow in Paris heads of European states will march in Paris to condemn terrorism: this rare event should not finish at the end of the day but should be the start of a new cooperation toward peace inside and outside our fronteers.

  4. Here in Paris, the “Je suis Charlie” signs are EVERYWHERE. On newsstands, on TV stations (banners on the upper left-hand corner of our TV screens), storefronts, vans, cars, etc. The “Vigipirate” plan is in place. That means heavily armed police everywhere and armed guards in every single mall / supermarket / department store checking your bags before letting you in. Most surprising is the sheer numbers of police posted outside of news stations like BFM-TV and I-tele. Tomorrow I will be going to the rally. However, I as well as other friends who are going have made the conscious decision to not take our children, which says a lot. We feel the absolute need to show our support, but we are also aware that there are still fundamentalist, heavily armed, terrorists in our midst. And no one knows what could happen tomorrow. My muslim friends are profoundly disturbed by these recent events, and they fear an already present racism to grow worse against them, as we go forward. The vast majority of muslims in France are moderate everyday people like you and me. Sadly, they will pay the price for the acts of a group of deeply disturbed individuals with room-temperature IQs….
    It is key for many other countries to show their support for free speech, not just with regard to France but to Denmark also. France already had a wave of bombings in the metros and in department stores 20 years ago, perpetrated by muslim extremists, and despite the overwhelming international support, those events are still fresh in our minds. If everyone is in on the game, France will not appear like such a target anew.
    LET US NOT FORGET that there are and have been fundamentalist elements in EVERY religion. The Inquisition and the Nazis tortured and killed millions of innocent humans, in the name of Christianity. Modern-day fundamentalist Christians bomb Planned Parenthood clinics and murder doctors. Buddhists in Sri Lanka and in the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan have killed thousands. The Jewish Stern gang murdered British in Palestine, and Hindus massacred thousands in Pakistan during Partition.
    Thanks for creating this post and sending a message to us alums in Paris.
    Vive Wesleyan for the precious values it transmits and Vive la France.

  5. [January 10] Leaving Paris after a grueling, draining week. On the way to the station, I stopped by Jacqueline Raoul-Duval’s to pay my condolences. She is a writer, biographer of Franz Kafka, and a friend. Her niece, murdered along with eleven other members of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ editorial staff, was an eminent psychoanalyst. While I was there, CNN called and I helped them to set up an interview with Jacqueline. Here is a woman who left North Africa and moved to Paris after the War. Like other French Jews of her generation, Jacqueline must feel hunted; as she observed: “It feels like 1933; each week an attack on another Jewish institution.”
    Leaving Jacqueline’s apartment, I walked through the Marais to the Place de la République. The central fountain has become an impromptu shrine to the victims, covered with bouquets and with candles and hand written notes, reminiscent of the informal memorials that sprouted across Manhattan in the days after 9-11. We stood silently in the soft rain. The stones of the fountain glistened in the early evening lamplight and red petals lay wilted on the pavement. The votive candles still spell “Je suis Charlie,” but the rain has put the flames out.
    By the time I arrived at the canal near Gare de l’Est, it was no longer raining, and the restaurants were beginning to fill with Saturday night clientele. Along the water, the wood-framed windows glowed softly at a small restaurant, ‘Atmosphère.’ Candles flickering on the worn wood table tops, and muted voices at the bar, suggested a place for quiet contemplation. The menu offered simple food for a damp evening.
    The waiter brought my soup and wine and we began to talk. He spoke of the cartoonists and writers; he knew them. He has lost friends. How many people, of my age or of the next generation like this man, have expressed the same sentiment: they have suffered a personal loss. Cartoonists whose work they have grown up reading and a journal that seems emblematic of a generation. My ‘conseiller’ Jean Taquet, the waitress at the café near Bastille, this waiter, colleagues at the symposium at the Sorbonne. All deeply and personally affected.
    I remembered another Saturday night in a restaurant, 13 years ago, the night search and rescue operations at Ground Zero were declared over; the night I stopped working at the mouth of Hell. The night I understood the opening sentence of ‘In Another Country’ – “In the fall the war was always there, but we didn’t go to it any more.” Late September 2001, Lower Manhattan’s restaurants were filled with people who seemed oblivious to the smoking ruins a few blocks away. But tonight in Paris, no reminder is necessary. People are not ignoring the horror. And besides, the war has come to us.

Comments are closed.