I mourn them, but I couldn’t be them.
I am not quite comfortable enough with confrontation. Since I first bribed my way, with homemade brownies, into our neighborhood football game, I’ve always preferred being liked to being disliked, included to excluded. I can only speculate how I might have fared, growing up with the Hebdo crowd.
I am not quite ready enough to assume the worst of people. It may be that I took too seriously my mother’s refrigerator posting: There’s enough good in the worst of us, and enough bad in the best of us, that it behooves none of us to speak ill of the rest of us.
I am not quite confident enough of what I believe. In matters religious, I can’t make the leap of non-faith from agnosticism to atheism (what if, against all reason, there really is a God and she’s had a bad day?). Organized religion may be pock-marked with stupidity, but it has moments of transcendent grace (listen to Brahms’ Requiem and tell me religion is bunk).
I am not quite willing enough to cause gratuitous offense, especially to those who have suffered prejudice and discrimination. Though I wouldn’t claim that Charlie Hebdo has done so, I couldn’t bring myself to indulge in the N word, or caricature Jews or Latinos the way some hate-mongers do. I have even occasionally hesitated to assume all Republicans are right-wing wackos.
I am not quite sure enough that I can be even-handed, as a satirist should be, skewering friend as pointedly as foe. I am a Democrat, and — look — did I just single out the Democrats for a backhand swipe? No I did not! Bad, bad Charlie Brown!
I am not convinced enough that the bludgeon is mightier than the needle. Satire should help people see that they are being stupid and give them a second chance, for which knocking them unconscious isn’t helpful. The best satire should be like the best fly fishing: hook your prey well, accept that it will feel a little pain, play it carefully and do not allow it to suffer, gently release it to its element to reflect on the encounter. I am not sure how my French counterparts would have fished. Dynamite comes to mind — effective but indiscriminate.
I am I — Charlie Brown — and they are they — Charlie Hebdo. I have my uses; they have theirs. They say things I may think, but couldn’t possibly say. They say things I couldn’t possibly think or say. They also say things I might just barely work up the courage to say … sometime … maybe … probably not.
Those, so brutally murdered, were rude and uncivil, and, though it isn’t my style, I honor them for that because they were my shield. Without them, one layer of protection is stripped away, and I am that much closer to the front-line.
Good grief, what a frightening thought!