Over the last days, I have been thinking thinking reading listening trying to absorb the narrative of thought about Charlie Hebdo. In the NY times I read THIS. I found THIS article in the Atlantic Monthly interesting, and agreed in particular with this bit below, even wishing that we in the USA would embrace the idea of laïcité as the French have done.
In 2012, Stéphane (“Charb”) Charbonnier, the editorial director of the magazine who was killed last week, told me, “I’m sorry for the people who are shocked when they read Charlie Hebdo. But let them save two euros fifty and not read it.”
Charlie Hebdo preaches a stringent interpretation of laïcité, France’s illiberal official secularism…
“We are a French newspaper,” Biard told me in 2012, engaged in the defense of “French” values. In an interview with the Swiss public broadcaster RTS after last week’s attack on his publication, he said: “Laïcité is not just some abstract idea. It is a moral value, and I believe today, one must recognize that laïcité is perhaps the prime moral value of our Republic. Because without it, Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité isn’t possible.”
In the France of 2015, this sort of ideological retrenchment is hardly radical…
However radical Charlie Hebdo’s mode of expression, the ideas it is promoting are not.
In the New Yorker I reflected on what Adam Gopnik wrote:
The right to mock and to blaspheme and to make religions and politicians and bien-pensants all look ridiculous was what the magazine held dear, and it is what its cartoonists were killed for—and we diminish their sacrifice if we give their actions shelter in another kind of piety or make them seem too noble, when what they pursued was the joy of ignobility.
As the week came to its grim end, with the assassins dead and several hostages—taken not by chance in a kosher grocery store—dead, too, one’s thoughts turned again to the inextinguishable French tradition of dissent, the tradition of Zola, sustained through so much violence and so many civic commotions. “Nothing Sacred” was the motto on the banner of the cartoonists who died, and who were under what turned out to be the tragic illusion that the Republic could protect them from the wrath of faith. “Nothing Sacred”: we forget at our ease, sometimes, and in the pleasure of shared laughter, just how noble and hard-won this motto can be.
So here I sit. Sunday night. Back to school tomorrow.
Digesting deep thoughts & ideas about Charlie Hebdo and their “beloved bad boys,” those irreverent cartoonists.
Thinking of the people who lost their lives in the Jewish deli in Paris.
I’m moved by the photos (all from the atlantic monthly) and awed by the spirit of the French people.
And I wanted to share. That’s all. Goodnight.