Yesterday morning’s news from Paris has rocked me to my core. As I made my morning cup of Irish breakfast tea I heard the report on NPR: twelve people killed in a terror attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that has published controversial Muhammad cartoons.
Vicki Doudera here. It’s so horribly wrong on several levels. First – the taking of innocent lives – but second, the taking of those lives because the murderers were offended by free speech. Third – I’m not a scholar of world religions, but I’m pretty sure that Muhammad did not advocate murder as a way to solve problems. (Nor did Jesus, but I realize many wars have been waged on His behalf despite that, too.)
The French are beyond shocked. It’s the worst attack in their country since World War II. Several of those killed were household names, cartoonists who resonated very deeply with French culture. This is a wound – a big one.
I’m remembering my year of living in Paris, slogging up the stairs, fresh baguette in hand, to my little 4th floor apartment in Montmartre. I am heartsick for the city, for the people I remember, for their sense of trust and safety that has been shattered by this vicious act of terrorism.
And I feel a solidarity – not just with the grieving citizens of France, but with artists everywhere. Anyone who dares take up the pen, whether to draw cartoons, shape stories, paint pictures, or express an opinion, is putting themselves, just like those who worked for Charlie Hebdo, in the line of fire. I may write crime stories that seem on the surface to be innocuous, and yet they undoubtedly have the power to offend someone, somewhere. My last book dealt with the growth of a shadowy secret service in Russia. The facts are true, woven into fiction. Could they offend? Could some twisted mind read Deal Killer and want to do me harm?
The answer – for anyone who dares write more than drivel – is yes. We are all Charlie, we are all united, we all must stand up for free speech and against measures that “offend” this or that group. We may not always like what we see or read, but that is the cost of living in a free society, one which allows every voice – no matter how offensive – to be heard.
Vive la liberté. Pick up your pen and write.
Thank you! And also amessage not to “self silence” ourselves if we explore the unpopular or even, what might not be considered unmarketable. Thinking the heavy “will it sell?” mantra that drives publishers to reject work is somehow part of the threat of silence. Thank you, Vickie.
So true, so sad. Even if we are not writers we all share free speech.
Around 8 p.m. last night, driving through downtown Portland’s Congress Street, a clutch of bundled up people held signs: Je Suis Charlie.
I turned to my husband with a ‘What’s up with that?’ and since neither of us knew, we speculated. Our first leap was ‘terrorist victim’. Then, considering recent news, perhaps more protesting of brutality.
We agreed on one fact. Those half-dozen people were passionate enough about ‘being Charlie’ to freeze outside in single-digit Maine weather.
Thanks for cluing me in early this morning, because I forgot about those people from last night. Reading your post instantly shifted the atoms in my warm safe studio, forcing me to consider the world outside my domain, how fragile life is, how precarious the freedoms we take for granted. You invested me with membership to a global team. Heavy stuff Vicki, thank you for the rich reminder.
Well said, Vicki.
As we prepare to leave for Paris for our two-month break–our bookstore closes January-March–we’re following the news. A few people have asked if we’ve thought of cancelling our trip. NO! Not a single thought of that. Like the writers and artists who will continue to pick up their pens, we will continue to live our lives.
Mainely Murders Bookstore
Thanks for this. I love France and the French people and I’m sickened by this. I have English cousins who have lived there in a little village, Gannat, near Vichy where decades ago Nazi thugs tried to destroy their country. People have forgotten perhaps the wonderful job the French Underground did in routing them. President Eisenhower wrote a wonderful tribute to them. The French have a joie to vivre that I love. They have brought us art, writing, satire as an art form, poetry, novels, architecture, music…the finest. But what makes me so much at home there is that they love to laugh and eat gorgeous food. There is no better way to spend an evening than in an ordinary French home, laughing and eating. But never mistake this joie to vivre for no backbone. Defiance has overtaken the streets of Paris today. The Nazis didn’t make a dent on their culture and neither will these thugs. Stand strong my friends. My heart is with you.
My heart breaks for the citizens of Paris and all of France for what they are going through right now. I hope these men are captured and swiftly brought to justice.
there is a move afoot to publish Mohammed cartoons EVERYWHERE, on the same day…..not sure when…
Well, said, Vicki!