Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie

Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
January 11, 2015

Last week I had a kind of a lighthearted idea cued up about the latest improbable loss by the Detroit Lions. It was filled with words like “tragedy” and “devastating” and fans who were going to be bitter and disappointed all winter long. (I know this because I have been married to one of these fans for 27 years.) Then after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, I wasn’t feeling so lighthearted.

I am well aware that on any given day it is not unusual for a dozen or so people to be murdered in the name of extremist ideology. So it seems slightly disingenuous that I should react to this particular instance just because there were four cartoonists among the dead. Still, it did make it personal because these men were killed for doing something that I do, too. It is understood to be part of the gig. Some people don’t understand parody and satire. Some people don’t like opposing views. Some people are so shallow in their own beliefs, striking others is their only defense. Some people have no sense of humor. And these people can hurt you.

I am fortunate; nobody has ever threatened to kill me. I have been threatened with many flavors of physical assault (mostly as a means to help me “learn my lesson”). I have been assured of the certainty of my damned soul. Often I have had the legitimacy of my heritage called into question. Some seemed convinced that I’m hopelessly stupid and then offer sage advice. (But truly, if my head ever did manage to somehow become lodged inside my own rectum, I don’t think I would need to be told to remove it.) But mostly it is just name calling and fist shaking.

The very purpose of an editorial cartoon is to cause a reaction, and so by definition they are volatile. Sometimes the reaction is just a laugh. The better ones inspire hope, challenge positions, poke at beliefs, cause people to think. Occasionally they step over a line, are in bad taste, or are simply wrong. That can happen. But nobody ever should have to die for that. So when I say, “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), I am not saying I am as good as these cartoonists or as brave. I am saying that I stand with them and forever will be inspired by them.


  1. Kris said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 9:51 am

    ” Some people are so shallow in their own beliefs, striking others is their only defense.” And that’s the crux of it. You can’t justify the hate in your heart by killing in the name of your chosen diety. Tu es Charlie, mon frere, et je suis Charlie aussi.

  2. hoz said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

    Well said, John.

  3. John said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 5:23 pm

    Thanks, Kris. Soeur Grace would be so proud of you!

    Thanks, John. Hope you are well. I wish you were a couple cubicles over so I could wander over and talk about it. 🙂

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