Charlie's Many New Friends, Both Bogus and Harrowingly Real
In the complex wake of the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo, it's impossible not to be moved and inspired by the spectacle of over three million people flooding Paris to reject fear and defend freedom - a phenomenon, it's been noted, never replicated nor likely to be in an apathetic, divided America. But as with any large event, the multi-layered response has included the good, the bad and the grossly opportunistic - like world "leaders," many of whom are guilty of their own suppression of free speech, using the march as a photo-op to show "solidarity," except they marched alone, surrounded by security, far from the ragged masses.
Still, there has been much genuine courage, eloquence, defiance. Arab cartoonists and many others, including the elusive, legendary Robert Crumb, have continued to create and publish heartrending expressions of support. There have been cogent pieces exploring the historical sources of Islamic violence, the hard-won nobility of Charlie's stubborn "nothing is sacred" stance, and the hazards of rendering iconic the iconoclastic, insurrectionist images of those who "would be dumbfounded to find themselves memorialized as exemplars of a freedom that they always insisted was perpetually in danger and in need of a defense that only offensiveness could provide." There have been moments of joy, hope and unity, like the brief, much-viewed video of Jewish and Palestinian protesters embracing in the name of the same cause. There has been widespread recognition of the heroism of Lassana-Bathily, the Mali Muslim Kosher grocery store worker who saved several lives, and of Ahmed Merabet, the French Muslim cop killed for all to see while trying to stop the attack.
Most of all, there has been the grief and horror of survivors - the Charlie staff seen weeping at the march, the families of victims - to remind us we shouldn't require such grief and horror to support freedom, that we shouldn't "borrow blood that way." From the tearful, dignified brother of Ahmed Merabet: "My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims... To all the racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites - mad people have neither color or religion."
Update: Charlie's new cover. A million copies are set to be released Wednesday.