May I write “I am Charlie” ?

My reactions to the Charlie Hebdo’s horrible events.

On Tuesday night, I was teaching the first class of my Graphic Novel and Illustration: Advanced Techniques course. A weekly class for adults at the Palo Alto Art Center. While doing a quick review of the history of comics and graphic novels, I talked about the emergence of adult comics in the USA and in Europe and how magazines like Hara-Kiri, Fluide Glacial, and… Charlie Hebdo, started in France. The next morning, I learned that the Charlie Hebdo offices were under attack. Twelve people were killed by two gunmen claiming to be avenging the Prophet Mohammed. Later, on Friday, four hostages were also killed by, yet, another terrorist.

The events shocked me terribly. I felt sick to my stomach, nauseated, mostly, devastated and extremely sad. I spent most of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday glued to the Internet, following the events, the reactions, the demonstrations. Although, I strongly felt I should show my support in some way, I struggled to figure out how. Should I draw something? Write something?

I wanted to say like others I am Charlie but I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure of what it meant. I wasn’t sure whether or not I could honestly associate with it. I started reading the magazine a long time ago, before it took the name Charlie Hebdo. But I did not buy it regularly. While I loved some of their caricatures, I also often criticized some of them for different reasons. Like their authors, I had a right to disagree. I was not an unconditional supporter of the magazine. So would it not seem hypocritical now to claim that I am Charlie?

However, did it mean that I should not make a statement? Could I remain silent?

No. I can’t. Here’s why…

I support freedom of thought, freedom of speech.

I support the right to publish satirical cartoons.

I support the right of magazines such as Charlie Hebdo to exist.

I admire the courage of Charlie Hebdo’s team of cartoonists, journalists, and staff members. I admire their courage to stand up for their right to dissent, to challenge, to offend, and to publish, even in the face of real threats.

I am devastated that they ultimately died for their ideas.  I am devastated that two policemen who were there to protect them, their right to work, also died in these events. I am devastated that innocent hostages also lost their lives.

I strongly condemn their murders by people who seek to impose silence by means of terror.

I applaud the demonstrations, actions, and statements denouncing this despicable act of intolerance.

I applaud the people who held up the Charlie Hebdo‘s caricatures during the many demonstrations around the world.

I applaud the newspapers that did not hesitate to reprint those caricatures to show their support to their Charlie Hebdo‘s colleagues, to confirm their right to freedom of speech.

Consequently, I think I can and I must write I am Charlie.

Danièle Archambault, Ph.D.

Linguist and cartoonist

(I shared a draft of this statement on a discussion list of comics scholars, on Friday, January 9th, 2015)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *