Credit for this awesome picture to my dear friend Jim Collins…thanks Jim!
It was around noon yesterday when I heard the news: a trio of gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a popular French satire magazine, and opened fire. A dozen people lost their lives in the attack, including two police officers and several staff members of the magazine, including its editor-in-chief and its editorial cartoonists.
The news sent chills down my spine. As someone who spent the better part of his adult life, almost 16 years, working in a newsroom, the attack was too close to home for my liking. When I read more and found out why these people were killed, I was sickened.
Given what I used to do for a living, I’m a big proponent of freedom of the press. During my time at the newspaper I called home, I wrote things that people disagreed with, sometimes vehemently disagreed with. Never once, however, did I have to fear for my life over something I wrote. From where I sit, nobody should ever have to worry about being killed for expressing their opinion.
People are up in arms over this, and for good reason. Art, like writing, is about getting a message across. Did the artists at Charlie Hebdo go too far with their satire? Maybe, who’s to say? Did they run and hide when their office was firebombed in 2011 after running another piece that ticked some people off? No. Stephane Charbonnier, one of the magazine’s artists who lost his life yesterday, said in 2011, “it’s perhaps a bit pompous, what I’m about to say, but I would rather die standing than to live on my knees.”
When news of the killings broke yesterday, artists from across the comic industry took to social media to express their support for their fallen colleagues. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I Am Charlie) became a worldwide trend. Artists and writers tweeted out pictures of themselves with their “weapons,” be it a pencil, brush or keyboard. Names like Marc Chiarello, Joshua Hale Filakov, Shawn Martinborough, Kelley Jones, Jamal Igle, Richard Friend, Ron Garney, Graham Nolan and more took up arms to show solidarity for the souls needlessly lost yesterday.
Colleen Doran, the legendary comic artist, said it best: “Read. Write. Draw. Mock. Scorn. Praise. Make Art. Make Mistakes. Make Junk. Be Brave. Be Afraid. Do it all again.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Without people like those we lost yesterday, the world would be a boring, sterile place. That’s not a world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where people can express their creativity, where they can have an opinion, where they don’t have to live in fear.
Je Suis Charlie, and that’s something I’m damned proud of.