Why we say “Je Suis Charlie”

And why supporting each other matters

Slade Lane

“I know very few people who go into comedy as an act of courage . . . mainly because . . . it shouldn’t have to be that,” says Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show.

On January 8, Stewart began the show without his usual wit and satire and poignant comedy. Instead, the mock-pundit chose to reflect that 2014 was not a “great year for people.” As 2014 came to a close with indictments being forfeited, sportsmen told to be silent on social justice, and a movie by Seth Rogen pulled from theaters because its existence was said to be a threat to national security, 2015 begged to start off more hopeful. It had too. Stewart notes that the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hedbo had the courage to promote change, and that made cultural martyrs of them. They were killed for their cartoons.

Charlie Hedbo is a French satirical magazine based in Paris, France. The publication is known for its cartoons and irreverent humor; being anti-religious and left-wing. The magazine has come under scrutiny in the last decade for publishing several cartoons and bit that portray and poke fun at the prophet Muhammad, even though depictions of Muhammad are forbidden by Islamic tradition. It is these cartoons that are seen to have ultimately led to the attack on January 7.

The attack was carried out by two gunmen who stormed into the headquarters of Charlie Hedbo and opened fire on those inside. The two gunmen, Islamist extremists, killed twelve, including staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski according to the French news outlet Le Monde. The shooters are reported as shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great) and “the Prophet is avenged” during the attack.

Amid the promises of a new year, of better things, of resolutions, of new resolve to live a fuller life, why do I ask us to focus and reflect on the tragedy of Charlie Hedbo?

Within hours of the attack in Paris, #JeSuisCharlie, meaning “We are Charlie,” began to trend while being used across Twitter and other social media outlets. This phrase echoed condolences and remorse with the families of those lost in the attack, but it also became a scream towards those that would threaten freedom of speech with acts of violence and terrorism.

Je Suis Charlie is a rallying cry, proving that the words, thoughts and writings of others can be more powerful than ever imagined. What we say, write and express carries weight.

Equally important, Je Suis Charlie enforces that people should have a right to express their opinions,  beliefs, or thoughts—free from getting shot. This tragedy is a call to do better and communicate effectively with one another, with an emphasis on love.

As we push forward into the new year, we should keep in mind that resolutions, classes, and graduations should not take precedence. I would urge we focus less on grades and slips of paper, but on people in our community, at our school, and in our world. Because when we say “Je Suis Charlie” it’s more than something that is trending on the Internet. How we communicate and support one another matters.

Slade is a senior studying language arts education.