After terrorists gunned down 10 Charlie Hebdo journalists and two police officers in Paris this week, social media was flooded with “JeSuisCharlie” and “IAmCharlie” hashtags. I joined. And after the deluge, another flood — this time blog posts and articles about why “I’m not Charlie,” more than a few from my colleagues in journalism.
They’re all very careful to add that they do not condone the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and I certainly believe them.
But I respectfully disagree with the decision to reject I am Charlie, and here’s why.
The gist of the I’m Not Charlie movement is all about content. Charlie Hebdo’s brand of over-the-top irreverence is just too much, too ribald, too racist, too homophobic, too sexist, too too too.
And it is over-the-top, outrageous, which is precisely why I am Charlie.
Charlie Hebdo is classified as satire. Some have tried to reserve the term “satire” only for those who have power, or something. Satire can’t be directed down the ladder, they say. Yes, it can. And it should.
Definition: Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Anybody can be a target for satire. Up, down, right, left, under, over. Doesn’t matter. We don’t have to like it, read it, watch it, or even acknowledge its existence if we’d rather not.
Same goes for any other type of humor.
Charlie Hebdo’s brand of humor is not my cup of tea, in the same way that I don’t care for South Park or Beavis and Butthead. They’re all three humor, though, just extreme in their application of it. Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report is another example of this type of humor, but more tame.
No one deserves to be shot in cold blood for humor of any kind, which as far as I can tell, no one other than religious extremists believes.
And still. This distancing from Charlie is dangerously close to “She didn’t deserve to be raped, but she shouldn’t have worn that skirt.” Which is just another way of insulating ourselves in some false sense of security. This would never happen to me, we seem to be saying, because I wouldn’t behave like that.
I’m Charlie, though, because it could happen to me, and to any of us. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told it’s fine that I’m a lesbian, just don’t shove it down our throats, when all I’m doing is walking down the street. See, it’s not what we do, what we say, what we write, what we draw that makes us targets — it’s who we are, and who we are is not somebody else who doesn’t like us and believes we don’t deserve to live.
In this case, journalists. Far too many of us have become targets of late, on the streets, in war zones, even in our offices. I’m Charlie because I’ve had enough.
And not only have I had enough killing of journalists, I’ve had enough killing, enough violence of every kind, be it terrorism, deranged gunmen, police officers, or war. In the short run, it draws more people who believe as we do to our side, hence the surge of right-wing, anti-Islam propaganda in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings and the correlative surge in recruiting for the terrorists.
But in the long run, it degrades us all. It reduces our humanity, and above all, that is who we are. Wars and terrorism try to disguise that. “We” are human, “we” deserve to live, “they” are not and do not.
That’s why I’m Charlie. In the end, we’re all Charlie, whether we accept it or not.
Of course conservative media outlets like Faux News and The Weekly (No) Standard would slam Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and Zac Brown for singing CCR’s Fortunate Son at a Veterans Day celebration on the National Mall.
“Tone deaf,” TWS said. “Taking shots at the red, white and blue,” said one of Fox’s blondes — couldn’t say which, they’re interchangeable.
They all agreed that the song, written by Army vet and CCR front man John Fogerty, is “anti-war,” “anti-draft,” “anti-military.”
Except it’s not. What it is is anti-elitism, anti-I’m-a-bigshot-so-my-kids-don’t-have-to-go-to-war-but-you’re-nobody-so-you’re-kids-do.
It’s true that Fogerty opposed the Vietnam war, it’s true he opposed the draft, and it’s also true that he was drafted. But what he opposed even more was the blatant inequality about who was sent to war and who got a deferment.
It’s not the first time, though, that conservatives have been unable to comprehend song lyrics. Ronald Reagan, among others, used Springsteen’s Born in the USA as a campaign song (until Bruce told him to stop). Born in the USA, a song about just how bad the United States treats its veterans once the shooting stops. If it stops. Talk about tone deaf.
But then, this is kinda par for the proverbial course, wherein the course is headlines, soundbites and song titles and par is the conservatives’ seeming inability to see anything that is not either/or, or, in this case, red, white and blue.
Nuance is not for the patriotic at heart.
Much was made about nuance in 2004 when GW Bush used the word against John Kerry. Many of my colleagues in the “mainstream media,” never ones to miss jumping on a meme bandstand, beat it to death, treating it as if being able to see more than the flip sides of an issue was a bad thing. It’s not.
In fact, we’d live in a much better world if we stopped with the I’m-right-so-you’re-wrong bullshit. And don’t take my word for it. Just think about it. Let it roll around in an open space in your mind for a little bit. See what happens.
What would happen, do ya think, if we just listened a little more? And, by listen, I mean actually hear the words being spoken and what they mean rather than snatching a word or two out of what we think we hear and formulating our brilliant takedown while the other person is talking.
It may just be too much hard work for some of us. I can’t guarantee the Faux heads will ever be capable of it. When one of their number actually explained what Fortunate Son was all about, another said he just wasn’t sure. Maybe if Bruce and company had explained it before they sang it.
As if. As if listening to the song itself is so fucking hard he needs someone to explain it to him before he hears it.
It’s so easy to talk without knowing what we’re talking about. Some of us have made whole careers out of it, because a lot of us like nothing better than to have someone else condense this complex world into the lowest common denominator so we don’t have to wade through nuance ourselves.
And just look where that’s gotten us: