What’s Next After ‘Charlie’ Protests?
Je suis Charlie. I am. I am. I am.
The “I am” protests are becoming ubiquitous. And you can look at it this way: Too much of anything loses impact and meaning after a while. We’ll all become victims of “I am” fatigue. What good does it do to protest when nothing changes?
People queue up to buy the new issue of ‘Charlie Hebdo' newspaper at a newsstand in Paris Jan. 14. The defiant new issue sold out before dawn around Paris Wednesday, with scuffles at kiosks over dwindling copies of the paper featuring the Prophet Mohammad on the cover CHRISTOPHE ENA / AP PHOTO
Or you can see the protests this way: Finally, people are using their grown-up voices. They’re refusing to be part of the silent majority (or minority). They’re channeling their rage, their feelings of helplessness and their grief into action. If all they can do is stand on a street chanting or holding a sign, then, by god, they will do it. It beats sitting on a couch. You can’t be heard if you don’t speak up.
I’m hearing and reading the nays and the yeas. I tend to be more of a “yea” person, myself. But I wonder: What comes after the protests? Change or status quo?
I have to admit this was even more personal for me and for many of my friends who’ve sat in countless editorial meetings, just like the one the staff and cartoonists were in when the terrorists burst in.
Journalists, satirists, columnists, artists, cartoonists, magazine, TV and electronic editorial writers — these are all people whose job it is to speak truth to power, say what needs to be said, who tell stories or present viewpoints that don’t always mesh with popular opinions. In fact, they make a lot of people angry.
I used to think that if everyone was happy with a story I wrote and aired, I was doing something wrong. And I wasn’t even trying to be provocative, just factual.
The mission at Charlie Hebdo is to provoke, and provoke they do. They are equal-opportunity offenders, going after and ridiculing all in authority, not just Islam.
There are too many people who try to equate these extremist jihadists with all Muslims. Personally, I think this act of brutality drew an even sharper distinction between people of the Muslim faith and those who use the religion to justify atrocities.
I had a conversation with a man who tried to paint all Muslims with the same brush, using as “proof” the tired old argument, “Why don’t they speak up about these acts of terrorism?”
Here’s an idea: Do a little research. Muslims all over the world have expressed outrage, condemnation, grief and solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. There is a website titled “Not in Our Name” decrying the use of Islam for evil purposes.
Holding all Muslims responsible for this atrocity is like blaming all Catholics for the sins of pedophile priests. Or blaming all white people for the bombing of an NAACP office in Colorado. Or holding all Christians responsible for the cold-blooded execution of an abortion provider in Florida.
If the “I am Charlie” protests have done nothing else, they have given people a chance to shout out loud and clear their displeasure at the evil. They have strengthened the world’s belief in decency and solidified the value of freedom of speech.
So, in answer to my question of what comes after the protests? I don’t know.
But one of the best photographs I saw in the wake of the slaughter, the deadly standoffs and the emotional demonstrations was a simple snapshot. It was a bunch of people in a large conference room, talking, consulting, working at computers. In other words, carrying on.
They were the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo preparing the next issue. What a beautiful, beautiful sight.
And the cover of their first issue? Mohammed, holding a sign that reads: “Je suis Charlie.”
The title, “Tout Est Pardonne,” translates as “All is forgiven.”
Thank you for carrying on. Je suis Charlie.