I’m not sure if I was more sad, frightened or angry when, yesterday morning, I woke to the news of the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. As happens all too often these days, my thoughts shuddered with “What’s this world coming to?” and “Just how cruel/closed-minded/barbaric can we be?”
Toward the end of the day, I was heartened to see thousands upon thousands of people in Paris and around the world carry signs that said, “Je suis Charlie,” “I am Charlie,” and “We are not afraid”–showing united resolve that we will not let anyone deny us one of our most basic rights, freedom of speech.
But it’s a 2011 quote by the slain Editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo that has most stayed with me. Simple, yet profound, it touches all of us, beyond what happened in Paris. Stephane Charbonnier, (Charb), after the 2011 firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices said:
“The magazine’s cartoons will only shock those who want to be shocked.”
It brought to mind a mantra many of us grew up with:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
Words, cartoons, photographs, stories–will only hurt/shock those who want to be hurt/shocked. It’s as simple as that. None of those things have mass–they are as thin as air, lighter than a feather, and should be easy to ignore.
But we’ve become too soft. Too sensitive. Too quick to anger. As a result, in a variety of ways, we tell each other to shut up, sometimes commit violent acts, whether it’s about religion, race, politics–whatever. We all do it in varying degrees.
So, if “I am Charlie,” if we are all Charlie, I believe there are two parts to honoring those were were slain:
- Yes, we must be fearless with our opinions.
- But we must also accept that we think differently from each other, which means we’ll often disagree. Don’t take it personally.