What’s wrong with this picture?
Look closely. There is an office chair in the street.
The cops either don’t seem to want to be photographed, or don’t seem inclined to take any next steps, decisive or otherwise. Or they don’t know which next steps to take.
A bike parked, or abandoned, in the middle of the crosswalk — its rider, apparently, just stopped and climbed off — reflecting either whimsy or chaos.
… An office chair, in the middle of the street.
Something has happened here, is still happening …
It’s a great picture.
Tragically, what happened in the center of Paris, is not at all whimsical. Charlie Hebdo may be whimsical … a French Onion, if you will … a satirical humor publication, today, in the minds of extremists armed with Kalashnikovs and bottle rockets, twistedly perceived to be “paying the price” for its satire, humor …
There’s nothing funny.
Then, lights can switch off in Notre Dame … the Eiffel Tower goes dark, the Bastille gets stormed, its streets clogged with dialogue … at least there’s talking.
What’s been missing across much of Europe, outside of Germany, it seems, where PEGIDA — Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) and its opposing movements have grown vocal — is a sense of engagement. A willingness, inclination, to take next steps … and a lack of preparedness and security about doing so.
In too many European quarters (if you want to speak about “white privilege”), there is a strong unease that ‘something is happening’ — but this weird, fervent hope that it might go away if left alone … excluded, ignored or ridiculed. I’m all for a laugh at those “others” myself … #JeSuisCharlie too, bien sûr! That said, though,
“Satire” doesn’t mean anything against targets who don’t ask, in fact, want, to be satirized. It polarizes, like words can, when slung inappropriately.
Instead of derision … frustrations and still more violence … I propose a simple détente: a peaceful series of salons, to which all religions, social strata and colors, by invitation and wholly welcome, arrive:
Dinner is served. You’ve got champagne and Weißbier … Red Bull and escargot … döner kebabs with chantilly! Fear and hatred, pride and prejudice, war and peace, at table together …
Sharing apéritifs with beliefs, ideologies … cultures, menus, ideas … Art and Humor: what “works” and what doesn’t, and why.
Sharing dialogue, human connection, eye contact … the necessary first steps toward understanding. Simplistic perhaps. A utopian wet dream. A fantasy … but something has got to start somewhere.
How about not being “Charlie” today?