Êtes vous Charlie?

A man holds a placard which reads "I am Charlie" to pay tribute during a gathering at the Place de la Republique in Paris

I don’t really have a witty way to begin this article because it’s about something that isn’t very funny, so as much as I’d like to use this as an opportunity to show you all that I’m a hilarious writer who you totally want to befriend and take out on a date and bestow a large pizza upon, I think it would be best for me to just stick to what I’m supposed to be writing about – Charlie Hebdo. At this point, you may be thinking, “Hey Nikki, you’re a privileged-as-hell white girl from the suburbs! What, exactly, do you have to contribute to the controversial news story about the tragedy that affects you in absolutely no way whatsoever? Aren’t there people who are way better informed about pretty much everything you’re going to be writing about?” …Yeah, there definitely are. I recognize that my privilege prevents me from writing more than an opinion piece, one that may contain errors; however, I truly am trying my best to research all aspects of this event and write honestly.

Okay! Now that we’ve established that, let’s get to the nitty-gritty: On January 7th, 2015, twelve people were shot and killed in the headquarters of popular French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, by two Islamic extremists. The men were angered over anti-Muslim cartoons being printed in the magazine such as images of the prophet Mohammed, whom it is forbidden to depict in any sort of physical representation according to Islamic faith.

We should mourn the loss of these twelve individuals. January 7th was the date of a horrific tragedy. My heart is not only with the families and friends of these souls, but also with the true (and not shitty) followers of Islam who will face the inevitable repercussions of the actions of two extremely disturbed men who bastardized a religious text to the point where they believe that they must murder those who speak against their faith. As Hana Shafi so eloquently wrote for the Huffington Post, “We can bow our heads in mourning and acknowledge when a terrible thing happens. But we can’t allow [it] to rob our capacity to be critical human beings”.

While I’m on my shoddily-crafted soapbox, can I ask why we have to reduce everything to a fucking hashtag? Come on — we all remember #Kony2012, right? By turning this absolutely terrible attack into a cute little slacktivist hashtag (“#JeSuisCharlie” – meaning “I am Charlie”, of course), one is implicitly agreeing with the obviously and unarguably racist content of Charlie Hebdo. While shows like Family Guy tend to disagree with me on this one, I believe that satire is “usually meant to be humorous, [but] its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society”. Oh, wait, that’s not just my opinion on satire — that’s the definition from the Wikipedia page for satire! Silly me. So, remind me again how drawings of Jewish people with big noses, and black people with primate bodies isn’t racist, but merely satire? Where in these entirely negative portrayals of people of colour is the social criticism?

As tempting as it may seem to join the totally radical political social media movement (can we even call it that?), and post to your 400 Facebook friends that “je, like, totally suis Charlie”, consider that it is possible to mourn those lost on January 7th and support free speech without tacitly agreeing that it’s okay to be racist. They are not mutually exclusive. That’s the cool thing about being human — we are all capable of critical thought! Pretty neat, huh?

Yours Creatively,

Nikki Clydesdale, Online Contributor

Photograph: Sky News

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