By Naomi Friedman, Staff Writer
I felt conflicted on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Everything around me shouted the abomination of the Paris attack. With the Atlantic Ocean recently separating me from the tragedy, I did not know what to do. I felt responsible to at least have an opinion about the matter yet I did not wish to think about my homeland under such a light.
It is shocking to watch a familiar city you once associated with being stripped away from its peaceful security. France has been under terrorism alert for a while now, however nobody really expected anything to happen. America seemed to be a much more attractive target than France was, especially since this European country has a large Muslim community. Muslims and Islamists are not to be confused, however.
Just like the World Trade Center was the symbol of America’s capitalism and pride, Charlie Hebdo was one of the essences of freedom of speech in Europe. Although the majority of the French disagreed with Charlie Hebdo and would have liked the satirical magazine to be sanctioned for its provocative caricatures, causing death to the authors of such drawings is deplorable. Since the French Republic was solely built upon the freedom of speech after the 1789 revolution, murdering ideas has been an assault to the French identity.
I have never fully read and probably never will fully read any article published by Charlie Hebdo. Extremely satirical and located on the furthest left side of the political spectrum, I believe its content is mainly inappropriate and quite damaging. Its general negativity and exaggerated denunciation of events adds frustration to its readers by stoking inner fires rather than offering any solutions. I and many other French think the weekly magazine abuses of the democratic law of speech by making sure its content is always particularly on the edge.
Regardless of one’s feelings towards the particular magazine, over 1.2 million people gathered in Paris on Jan. 11 to express solidarity with the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks – 12 were killed at the Charlie Hebdo offices, one policewoman on duty in Montrouge, and four at the Kosher shop at Porte de Vincennes. Crowds were overflowing the metros and overran the streets for a peaceful walk between the Place de la République and the Place de la Nation – two symbolic squares recalling France’s national values of a republic based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
Those who loved Charlie Hebdo as well as those who loved hating the magazine joined by a number of other supporters were united over what divided them a week earlier: the Liberty of Expression. Songs of the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” rose within the masses. “I am Charlie,” “I was not Charlie enough,” “Charlie I think therefore I am,” “Make humor not war,” “White page = mute people,” “Ink is what needs to be shed not blood” are a few among the many different slogans held high above people’s heads.
Rarely has France shown such an important sense of solidarity around a common cause. While hundreds of French cities were also mobilized on that day, many other countries around the world such as Spain, Greece, Russia, Belgium, Israel, Lebanon, etc., held public gatherings in support of the freedom of speech under the banner of Charlie Hebdo.
This worldwide gathering turned Paris into the world’s capital for a moment. This historic walk has impressed the entire world by showing that the French do not accept killing people for their ideas.
By the means of sidewalk-interviews, it seems clear that the attacks have not changed France’s public opinion about the domestic ownership and use of gunfire. Instead, French people lift their pens for domestic ownership and use of words, images and ideas.
The Paris attacks have been referred to as the French version of 9/11. The number of deaths is obviously not comparable, but different things affect each culture differently. I believe aiming Ideas in France is the most powerful way to traumatize its population. France was not built upon military strength as much as it has been built upon culture, intellect, and ideas. This also explains why I do not expect France to go to war against anybody. The march on Jan. 11 was a symbolic comeback that goes along with French mentality.