Je Suis Charlie Ou Suis-Je?


With an increase in the black and white avatars spreading across forums and social media, it’s difficult to miss #JeSuisCharlie.  Hopefully, by now, it’s equally difficult for most people to remain oblivious to the events that occurred and are ongoing in Paris, France.
While reading about the event as details unfolded, the news swirled around in my head for a few seconds waiting for my brain to actually grasp it and confirm that yes, this had happened. All I could think was wow, that really sucks*. Seeing how quickly word spread and the world responded by showing signs of support and solidarity for a city on edge and in mourning was almost moving**. The writer, cartoon lover, and Francophile in me was  eager to say something on Twitter and proudly include #JeSuisCharlie. But who was I kidding?
I vaguely knew anything about the satirical publication in question (Charlie Hebdo) and, at that time, hadn’t even seen the controversial cartoons that were at the core of the attack.

Je Suis
Social media is great at bringing people “together” in support of something.
Kind of like sports.
But it also makes it easy for telling pieces of stories and people picking sides without having  a full picture. The more developed the picture becomes, the more I  may think, “hmm do I really want to affiliate myself with that?” Also, I often have qualms drawing attention to myself, much less in the wake of another person or persons’ tragedy. Even further less inclined (to draw attention) if it could come across as an instance of  “Let the record show that hey, I was on team X when Y happened.” Most of this is because I know that when the media storm dies down, a great number of people will no longer give a shit, and everything will resume as it had before. And those that continue to give a shit will be passing around things by people who already agree with them signaling the head nod of united shit giving. One could say Kony 2012 left a very grapefruity*** taste in my mouth.
More thought led me to consider what am I really saying if I proclaim Je suis Charlie?
Am I saying I stand with France? Stand with Charlie Hebdo? Don’t condone murder? Support the cartoons Hebdo publishes? Support satire? Support freedom of the press, speech and expression? All of these things? Some of these things? One of these things? None of these things? I’m not 100% sure, and since I’m not sure, I won’t subscribe****. Does that mean I look down on anyone else who does, no. Not really. Because it’s very likely them being Charlie is because they believe it means at least one of those things, and is a pretty nice sentiment. Perhaps now, instead of contemplating becoming a serial hashtag or campaign trending hero, I’ll resort to blogging about these events more…because that’s what makes me feel a bit better about myself.

I saw some of the cartoons Hebdo published, and wasn’t impressed by all of them. Part of me thought if you have received threats of violence from people who are likely to act on those threats, maybe scale it back a bit? But at the same time, nothing is universally sacred. What is sacred or profane is essentially subjective. And while some people may push the envelope more than is necessary, we don’t have an inherent right to not be offended by something. If anything, being offended should encourage a person to look at themselves, their beliefs and try to understand why a particular thing bothers them. I have unfortunately learned that is asking too much of most people. That said, I may not always agree with how some artists or writers choose to go about satire, but I’d rather keep living in a world where it and humor exists.

Notes from the author: This should have been published four days ago. It was started five days ago. Peut-être je suis une personne terrible, mais ne pas trop terrible.

*What can you really say when this kind of thing keeps happening? But also see **.

** Because when the Peshawar massacre in Pakistan happened and over 130 children were killed, I just don’t remember seeing quite the same immediacy in the world showing support and solidarity. Maybe I just missed it, or maybe the media missed it. Or there wasn’t a PR team that could come up with something as Westerner trendy. Plus how many people can even read or write in Urdu?
Also, I’ve seen some pictures of Muslims (Not in my name) being used saying they supposedly support #JeSuisCharlie, but were actually from events in 2014.
Go figure.

***L.A. detests the taste of grapefruit.

**** Haven’t done it for any other tragedies or atrocities, should I really start now?

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One thought on “Je Suis Charlie Ou Suis-Je?

  1. Interestingly enough, “je suis” in the first person singular also means “I follow,” so the meaning of “Je suis Charlie” is technically ambiguous, though I don’t get the impression most people are thinking of it as “I follow Charlie.”

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