#Jesuischarlie : what it could mean

Photo : Valentina Calà

Today, on the morning after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, on the door of my son’s classroom at kindergarten, there was a new board with a text, hand written. It was for the parents to decide. It got me. I knelt down to my son’s innocent ear and read it to him, whispering :

« The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law. » — Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen — 1789

His teacher’s eyes met mine. I kissed and flew before I turned to tears. Strange Cinderella moment.

Then I went to the nearby café. Parents with a happy new year smile looked at me strangely. Was I the only one ? The TV screen was blasting news about the suspects’ profiles, the hunt, the crowd. I went for the owner. He told me « I thought about you ». « I thought about you too », I managed to answer. Our kids attends the same school. He serves me coffee. We chat and share. I am a writer. He is a Muslim. We are friends.

France is all tears now. What we will make out of this event will define us as a country. I witnessed sept 11 in New York and it feels a little familiar. This is not about the dead count. But about the wave. The energy released. What the impact triggers. The “so what now” ? Some say we are at war. Now this sounds very familiar. I remember George W. Bush’s words, on sept 14th 2001, leaving his notes : “Go shopping”. That was what we were supposed to make out of it. We know where it led.

Have we learnt anything? Are we, french people, going to act any better ? Are we going to find solace in more hatred. Or stand up for dignity and use our infinite sadness to transcend what separates us. What is the story that mass media is going to choose to tell : a country about to bounce back or entering, fast, the highway to facism. It starts now and it does not look good.

This declaration of rights is called on many occasions, like something to hold to during perfect storms. But on a daily basis, we do not care. It does not structure our behavior anymore. It’s an alibi for doing nothing or may be tomorrow. We have neglected it, sat on it, on many, many aspects. But this is all we got. This society is the reflect of who we have become as a group : information and experts are everywhere yet we live in oblivion. Our lost cartoonists are praised now for their courage but the truth is, the day before, they were alive but almost bankrupt. Their freedom to draw was their way of living but nobody really cared. We left them on the fringe of our attention span. Our eyeballs were glued on the unnecessary, the too big to be really disturbing. On finance, our corrupted politicians and elite, on the highjacking of religions, our refuge in consumerism, we would laugh with their cartoons from time to time. They were revealing the shame of shame. But we never bothered to tell them how meaningful they were. We preferred getting lost in media porn. Noise is comfortable. Charlie Hebdo is a work of resistance not to fundamentalism, but to our laziness. Our resignation. If anything, the #jesuischarlie “movement” should embrace that spirit of resistance and become exactly that.

I hope this event will percolate. I hope the emotions and anger - not against our neighbor but, less conveniently, against ourselves, will get through our bodies and souls. This world will die. We will die. This time is ours. One day, I will not be there to explain my son what freedom is or was. This is high time we embody it. I hope, starting from now, we use our brain, our words, our tears to get rid of our daily and immensely costly abdications. And become human again : limited sure but alive still.