It seems that everyday there is news about terrorist attacks, whether they take place in the Middle East, America, or Europe, with the latest attack being in France. When I heard about the attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, I had just gotten back from a four-month stay in Grenoble, France. It shocked me to say the least, but after spending so much time in France, immersing myself into its culture, I felt like I was in mourning with its people.
I felt sick to my stomach knowing that just three days before the attack, I had been in Paris having the time of my life, and then the whole world was in shock, including me. The main question that everyone seemed to be asking was, why? Why, Paris? Why, Charlie Hebdo?
Many people, including the French, knew this was an attack on free speech. But what people don’t realize is that it was an attack on the French culture as well. While I was in Grenoble, I took a French history course, and what I learned was that satire and political cartoons have always been a part of French culture (although back then they didn’t have to worry about accuracy). Marie Antoinette and the royal family were among the first to be mocked by cartoonists and the tradition carried on into the French Revolution and eventually French history.
I am not trying to stop people from doing what they have the right to do, and hearing about the 4 million people who marched in Paris, I definitely felt proud to be a part of that culture. Then hearing about the marches around the world, made me even more proud that I chose to study in France, and learned what it means to be French. I guess the history nerd within me wanted everyone else to know about French journalism and politics the way I do.
When everyone around the world started saying, “Je Suis Charlie,” or “Nous Sommes Charlie,” I was proud but at the same time I was a little angry. People were quick to join in on marches, holding up pens and posters as a sign of solidarity against the attackers. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be rising up against the attackers in this way, all I’m saying is that I wish people would be more mindful of what the attack means.
Even though there have been riots all over the world against Charlie Hebdo, they still were able to create what they have called, “The Survivor Issue” with the cover even saying “Tout Est Pardonné,” which means, “All Is Forgiven.” This attack was not just about freedom of speech, which truly is important, especially for a democratic country like France. But there is a history behind what Charlie Hebdo does, and they shouldn’t be afraid to continue that history.
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