I have spent a lot of time thinking about the tragic massacre of 12 individuals at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris earlier this week. We all have. The more that I have thought about it, though, the more I have been torn over my reaction towards the situation.
The day of the shooting, myself and many others in the cartooning industry championed the hastag #JeSuisCharlie to show our solidarity with the victims and their families. Many of us, myself included, posted images of our “weapons of choice.” I posted a picture of me with my keyboard, while others posted pictures with pens, markers, pencils, and even styluses. We wanted the world to know that we stood for free speech and that, as an industry, we would not back down.
We attack tragedy with art. It is something that we are proud of and we damn well should be. Whether its editorial cartoons or spandex-clad superheroes, we view the world through our creations—it’s how we deal with life. We put our souls into our work and when one of our own is attacked for that, we stand together.
That is what happened on Wednesday. Talented people who believed in free speech were gunned down and the rest of us stood united. I don’t apologize for that and I never will. And yet, I'm still not entirely comfortable with my reaction.
I started to think about what “Je Suis Charlie” actually means…”I am Charlie.”
But I’m not “Charlie.” I don’t want to be. I have never been associated with the Charlie Hebdo magazine and, honestly, I would never want to be in even the smallest way. While it poises itself as a satirical magazine, it has continually insulted and provoked a wide range of people. It pushed the envelope and took no prisoners in attacking just about everyone. The creators of the magazine took particular pleasure in attacking Muslims and, quite frankly, spat on the fact that those of the Islamic faith hold Mohammed so dearly by depicting him in humiliating ways on more than one occasion. Even after their offices were bombed in 2011, they continued their assault on Islam.
In a lot of ways, Charlie Hebdo is a bully. I don’t like bullies and I’m certainly not a bully myself. I am not Charlie.
I would never condone violence and I would never say that someone deserves to be killed. I am disgusted by what happened to in Paris this week and I hope that those responsible are held accountable for their crimes. Yet, I cannot say in good conscience that I agree with Charlie Hebdo continually insulting and provoking Muslims. Or anyone they insulted for that matter. I have friends that would be heartbroken over how their faith was treated and that is not something I am willing to stand for, even in the wake of this tragedy.
Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but it is also difficult and it is not something that should be used without forethought. No one should ever be murdered for the things that they say or the cartoons that they create. But at the same time, we should not abuse something so beautiful and powerful by attacking others. What good is a freedom if it is not handled responsibly?
So, I would like to rescind my use of #JeSuisCharlie and replace it with #JeSuisUnArtiste. I am not Charlie, but I am an artist. And I will stand by those who believe in art and wish to create, but I will ask them to use that power respectfully.
The keyboard is my weapon and I will use it wisely. When you pick up yours, I ask that you do the same.