I am not Charlie because, even though millions of supporters have taken to the blogosphere (and, occasionally, to the streets) to use the catchphrase Je suis Charlie/I am Charlie in expressing their solidarity with the victims of the shooting that took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo last week,* there’s still a lot that makes me uncomfortable about using those loaded words.
I am not Charlie because, well, saying “I am Charlie” kinda not only sweeps the ridiculously complicated elements leading to the shootings under the proverbial rug, but it frames everything in a dangerously simplistic dichotomy of West-vs-Middle-East or free-speech-vs-oppression or European-social-systems-vs-struggling-minorities or liberals-vs-fanatics or whatever shape your weekly slice of us-vs-them takes. I am not Charlie because, in addition to publishing pictures of the Prophet, the magazine has regularly shovelled layers of uncritical shat at social groups/people they obviously haven’t taken the time to understand.** I am also not Charlie because, incidentally, I’m not a magazine named Charlie Hedbo and French is not my forte.
I am not Charlie because I did not employ workers who are now dead *** and more who are wounded.**** I am not Charlie because attacks on my person and whatever staff I have didn’t overshadow the four people who died at a nearbyish grocery store. I am not Charlie because nobody, especially four additional people in Zinder, Niger, happened to die for my latest issue this week.
I am not Charlie because I’d kinda like for people to give my religious beliefs a serious investigation before dismissing them,***** and wonder if the God I try to worship demands that desire to extend to try understanding a religious tradition not my own – there’s that, and I wonder if it might generally be humanizing/helpful/worthwhile to try respecting the dignity of a love people have for a historical figure that’s as deep or deeper than the love I try (and fail) to have for a carpenter from Galilee.
I am not Charlie because I’m undecided about where I stand between the fact that freedom of expression is something ridiculously vital and the fact that responsibilities come with each/every freedom. I can’t quite say if I’m Charlie or not because I dunno whether the fact that most of the post-Jan-7th twitter-sphere seemed to forget the mag’s constant stream of ridiculous vitriol is a bizarrely touching act of mercy or terrible lapse of intellectual integrity.******(*******)
I am not Charlie because I don’t stand (intellectually) with people who say #iamcharlie while having issues when other people use that self-same freedom of speech to talk about abortion or alternative marriages or Holocaust denial or dead Palestinian children or ISIL precepts or the Ku Klux Klan – either freedom of speech means freedom of speech for everyone (especially the apparently disgusting, backwards or generally dangerous) or you’re not really all that interested in it.
I am not Charlie because displays of solidarity disturb me when they demand so little of the people displaying them, especially when those people conveniently forget the fact that several people die in terrorist attacks every week – apparently they don’t deserve rallies of over two million people.
I am not Charlie because it wasn’t my blood on the ground on January 7th, 2015. I am not Charlie because I don’t draw pornographic images of the Trinity. I am not Charlie because I myself don’t know to what extent I’ll defend freedom of expression. I am not Charlie because I hope, one day, to be able to say something of substance about Islam. I’m not Charlie because I can’t draw very well.
I am not Charlie because I am willing to compromise. I am not Charlie because that desire to compromise extends to folks labelled “terrorist” or “fanatic.” I am not Charlie because my values have never given me cause to run for my life. I am not Charlie because I’ve never died for what I believe in.
I am not Charlie because I wasn’t stupid enough to publish something under threat.
I am not Charlie because I am not brave enough.
*The magazine was satirical and published some pretty offensive stuff in general, and was one of the few publications that didn’t back down from printing pictures of Muhammad. Which, according to some interpretations of Islamic precepts, is a rather large no-no occasionally accompanied by death sentence.
**Not that I take the time to be properly informed. Nope. Guilty there. I don’t even know if it is possible for most people to be as informed as we ought/beg them to be.
Ahmed Merabet, a police officer killed at the scene
*****While I’ve never read the magazine itself and so don’t know how substantial the articles are, the cover images at times have been beyond gratuitous.
******I mean that genuinely – I’m disturbed but actually kinda moved too.
*******Although, when I think about it, all the best mercies are usually a lapse in something.
Josh Nadeau lives in Russia and, when not teaching or writing, may be found winter cycling, hitchhiking or engaged in general shenanigans. He hopes, when he’s older, to maintain a sense of awe.