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.