Jan 10, 2015

Je serais Charlie

How could I not write this post? Is there anything else to write about today? So please bear with me, as I throw up yet another stream-of-consciousness, unsolicited, personal opinion on what happened in my country (to my country?) this week. And in doing so I go back to the very reason why I write in the first place. To try (and mostly fail) to make sense of the world, to make sense of my place within it, to make sense of its place within me. Not for you, this time. Just for me.

For the past few weeks I've been playing around with the idea of writing a post on the Peter Pan syndrome, the need for permanent childlike innocence and freedom, all within the comfortable safety of parental boundaries, that has landed me in the arms of yet another academic institution. But I couldn't make the post witty enough, and work got on top of me, and... you know how it goes.

Then a bunch of over-grown, petulant children got slaughtered for trying to be funny and I didn't feel very safe in my childlike innocence anymore.

First, it was about the violent death of people I have known my whole life, people so intimately tied in my mind to my parents' generation, the 1968 kids, who naively held on to the belief that laughter and sex will overcome anything. Along with a glass of wine and a smoke, cause this is France we're talking about. I grew up with these people. They promised me it would all end well.

Then, it was about the clich├ęd need to reach out and touch someone, in the face of tragedy and fear. When threatened, we crave intimacy. We crave touch. We need to caress, to hit, to scream, to kiss, anything as long as it's not this. Anything to chase away the dread and numbness that follows inexplicable violence.

And when the fear passes, when the terrorists are pronounced dead, it's about looking in the mirror. What does this mean for me? What does this mean about me? Because that's what we've all done, made it about ourselves. Je suis Charlie. But am I?

Beyond the debate surrounding what Charlie Hebdo was actually about before Wednesday (was it funny? was it mean?), I need to think about what Charlie is about now. And to me, it can only be about one thing. Accepting that discourse, democratic debate, diversity require one fundamental thing: people I disagree with. Without them, I stand for nothing.

Like most of my friends, I belong firmly in the "bleeding hearts liberal" camp. As such, there are many, many people I disagree with. People whose point of view I find repulsive. And so I do what many of us do. I don't read their articles, I turn off the TV if they get invited to speak on the news, I "unfriend" them. And I've never thought twice about it. These are hateful views, I argue. Mine are based on love and acceptance and tolerance. Theirs are not. And so this justifies my intolerance.

That is not "being Charlie". Not the Charlie we all proclaim to be today. Over the coming days, weeks, months, people are going to say things that I find hateful and offensive and I'm going to want to shut them out. In fact, it's already started. But the democracy I so deeply believe in, the values that these hateful people will trample on, they mean nothing if I refuse to listen.

So I will listen. And then I will talk back.

And maybe one day, when I grow up, I too will be Charlie.


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