Favorite

Je suis Charlie 

The Observer, like most people, has been saddened more than we can express by the massacre of 12 people at the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. We honestly don't know if we want to live in a world where you can be executed for being a smartass, even an annoying, offensive, vulgar smartass, as the writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo seem to have been from time to time. The Observer has been all of the above during our tenure here at the Fortress of Employment, and we're plenty proud of it.

We tend to believe that you can judge the worth of a society by how much that society values those who look at power and find the courage to chuckle, from Aristophanes to Charlie Chaplin to the minds behind Charlie Hebdo. We know, as they did, that there are times when the best way to speak to the slapdash collection of stuffed-shirts, ancient edicts and cherished horseshit that rules these lives of ours is to laugh at them until you can't catch your breath. Here's the truth: Those who set themselves up as infallible deserve to be laughed at, because they are the butt of a joke they're playing on themselves without even knowing it. Here's what the dead know: A joke can smuggle a seed of knowledge within itself. A smile can vault over the barriers we all construct to keep our most precious misconceptions intact. A laugh can get inside even the tightest-shut mind, quick as picking a lock, taking that seed with it. It's like a magic trick. It's like a gift from God Himself, for whom the dirtbags who slaughtered the staff of Charlie Hebdo claim to have worked. The Observer suspects there isn't really a physical Hell waiting out there somewhere, but we're hopeful the Universe can find a way to invent one for people who would commit a perversion like that.

All the things that we could say have been said, and said better, in the days since the attack. A picture is worth a thousand words, much to The Observer's chagrin, and the cartoonists of Planet Earth have said several million words on the topic in the past week, with nearly every scribbler who can still lift a hand weighing in on the killings in some way: usually with the message that free speech won't be silenced by zealots; that the edgeless sword of the pen, pencil or brush will always prevail in the fight for truth and justice; that speech can be momentarily stilled by a punch to the mouth or a bullet to the head, but can never be silenced as long as brave people exist.

The Observer, who can't draw a straight line to save our miserable life, is left with only these pitiful black marks, invented millennia after the cartoonists were already making their point with sticks in the dirt, mud-dipped fingers, and crouching lionesses stalking antelope across cave walls. And so we can do nothing more than to write the names of the dead. Not what they deserve, we know. But it's the best we can do with the meager tools we have, and maybe that's enough:

Stephane Charbonnier, a.k.a. "Charb," the publisher of Charlie Hebdo.

Jean Cabut, a cartoonist.

Bernard Verlhac, a cartoonist.

Bernard Maris, a columnist.

Phillipe Honoré, a cartoonist.

Georges Wolinski, a cartoonist.

Michel Renaud, a visitor to the offices that day.

Mustapha Ourrad, a copy editor.

Elsa Cayat, a columnist.

Frédéric Boisseau, a maintenance worker.

Franck Brinsolaro, a policeman assigned to provide security for Charb.

Ahmed Merabet, a police officer shot in the street as the gunmen fled.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Snake stories

    The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
    • Aug 27, 2015
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Facing closure, Wilson Elementary families deliver angry message to school leaders

    "Why do you guys not care about your community? You’re tearing it down, not building it up, especially in the black community … It’s just a simple question — do you care?" one mother asked the superintendent. "Ma’am, I do care deeply about this district, and I do believe wholeheartedly we are making a better district every day," Poore replied.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in The Observer

  • Memories of Townsend

    Vernon Tucker, musician and former Arkansas Times writer, asked for The Observer space this week to remember Townsend Wolfe. Why not? What follows is memory of early days at the Arts Center.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Weird trivia

    When completed, the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol lawn will be the exact size, shape and weight of the vaguely humming black monolith that appeared at the foot of Conway Sen. Jason Rapert's bed in June 2010 and later elevated his consciousness from apelike semi-sentience to incrementally less apelike semi-sentience.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Resolutions

    No more clinging to material things, unless those material things are life preservers tossed as I go down for the third and final time, the few remaining strands of my once-majestic locks, or the skids of the last helicopter out before the fall of Little Rock.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Plant of the year

    The legalization of medical marijuana was Arkansas's most significant news of 2016.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation