A bientôt, Charlie Hebdo

A bientôt, Charlie Hebdo

charlie hebdo
Four of these men were murdered on 1.7.15

They loved to poke fun at authority figures. They pointed out society’s most ridiculous mannerisms. They denounced racism, xenophobia, and extremism. They fought for the little guy. They provoked. Nothing was too sacred, neither Presidents, the Pope, Israel or, as it turns out, Prophet Mohammed. And they did it all with humor (it wasn’t always everyone’s cup of tea,) and cartoons. They were neither saints, or heroes.

They were Charlie Hebdo.

Theteam

They were friends, and worked as a cohesive team, ignoring the constant threats against their lives. Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier) was their captain, and a fine one at that. He was smart, tenacious, and strong. The last few years, he was under police protection and hated it, but he forged ahead, trying to forget he risked his life every time he stepped outside. On Thursday, an inconsolable colleague and friend declared: “I am sure he stood up in front of the killers and called them $%#holes!” I certainly hope he did.

Charlie Hebdo
Following the attack that destroyed part of the office, in 2011, and holding (one of) the controversial cover(s)

They were talented, imaginative and irreverent artists. They were free men, and on Wednesday morning, assembled for their weekly editorial meeting around a large table, they were murdered. Their agenda that day: Fighting racism. Ah, the irony. Trapped in that room, they were shot, one by one, execution style.  Other people, and the police officers who tried to protect them, were shot down like dogs.

Charlie Hebdo
Photo: French Girl in Seattle

Shock. Grief. Anger. And a strong resolve, everywhere, to stand up and denounce a barbaric, senseless act. #JeSuisCharlie. I am Charlie. You have seen the placards, and the peaceful demonstrations spontaneously organized around the world. As of 1.7.2015, we all stand behind the Charlie Hebdo team and what they stood for. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Creativity. The “Charlie Hebdo executioners” (even if they have been identified, I refuse to say, or write their names from this day forward,) may have planned to bring France to its knees. They achieved the opposite effect. France is standing, and — a rare occurrence — united, for a while at least. Better yet, many people — who had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before — will never forget that publication, its martyred editorial team, and what they stood for. Well done, ignoramuses.

Charlie Hebdo
Photo: French Girl in Seattle

My countrymen, who knew Charlie Hebdo and were familiar with the talented cartoonists who worked there, were hit hard by Wednesday’s attack. French expats, in particular, being so far away from home, felt the need to gather and pay tribute to them. I spent most of Wednesday online, learning more about the editorial team and the newspaper; sharing stories with the readers and followers of French Girl in Seattle on Facebook. It helped, but I felt the need to do more. When I heard of a vigil organized in downtown Seattle by U.F.E. (an organization representing the local French community,) I decided to brave the cold, foggy January night — and the horrendous construction traffic downtown — to join members of the local French community. A small group gathered at 7:00pm. We created our own little corner of France on a windy sidewalk by the waterfront, across the street from the Consulate of France. A French flag was laid out carefully, surrounded by flickering candles. It looked a little lonely there, for a while, and my heart tightened up.

Charlie Hebdo
Setting up. Photo: French Girl in Seattle

Local TV crews were there, filming silently, and pulling people aside for interviews (I was selected, probably because of my béret…). The group got larger as the minutes passed. The crowd was silent and respectful, holding candles, #JeSuisCharlie signs and small French flags. There were many French families, some with young children. There were American citizens too, showing their support. I connected with several people I had only met online, members of the French Girl in Seattle community.

Charlie Hebdo
A small group, getting larger by the minute… (Photo: French Girl in Seattle)

Then, slowly, a person stepped into the circle and placed a pen on the flag. Then another.

Charlie Hebdo
A pen for the slain cartoonists and their friends (Photo: French Girl in Seattle)
Charlie Hebdo
More Pencils (Photo: French Girl in Seattle)

By the end of the vigil, the beautiful French flag looked a lot happier, surrounded by pencils, candles, flowers and many hand-made signs and messages…

Charlie Hebdo
“Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu’à la mort pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire” — Voltaire (Photo: French Girl in Seattle)
Charlie Hebdo
A beautiful flag with a message. Photo: French Girl in Seattle
Charlie Hebdo
I am Charlie (Photo French Girl in Seattle)

Towards the end, we sang (or hummed) the haunting Chant des Partisans, (video below) the song adopted by the French Resistance during WWII. It seemed appropriate. For over 30 years, the Charlie Hebdo team bravely resisted, mostly alone, but tonight, they had back-up, in Seattle and all over the world. I left before it was over. I had found the comfort I needed and had said my goodbyes.

Charlie Hebdo
A larger crowd (Photo French Girl in Seattle)

What’s next? I hope they catch the murderers before the end of the week, and bring them to justice. I hope not a single police officer or civilian gets hurt or killed in the process. As I type this, a third man, possibly linked to the two fugitives, is holding a grocery store hostage in Eastern Paris. Yesterday, he shot a young female police officer point blank. His name will not be mentioned on this blog, either. Charlie Hebdo has already announced they will publish next Wednesday “as usual.” Today, members of the surviving team were welcomed in temporary offices by their colleagues at Libération (another French publication) for their first work session, greeted on their way in by Parisians, police forces standing by. I know they will struggle with tone and content. I hope they get it right, and honor the memory of their fallen friends. Nobody knows if they will have the resources or the will to continue. As we all claim #JeSuisCharlie, few of us are as brave as those guys were. Few of us would be willing to take the risks they took on a daily basis to make their voices heard. Charlie Hebdo was experiencing financial trouble last year. The best way to help them right now is to subscribe. Their website is just a black and white page, with the message: “Because the pencil will always rise above barbarity. Because freedom is a universal right. Because you support us. We, Charlie, will publish your newspaper next Wednesday. The Survivors’ issue. 1.14.15.

I will be there, online, because I can’t be there in person. I will subscribe, and respect the newspaper’s decision, whatever they decide to do. I know there are many talented artists out there, who are waiting for the right word to jump in and take over. Don’t disappoint them. I hope you stay around, Charlie Hebdo. I hope you continue to kick serious [ignoramus] derrière! This time, something tells me you won’t be doing it alone.

As for France, ma Belle France, it seems you are under attack. It is not the first time. Chin up. Stay strong. Français, restez unis. This, too, shall pass.

Peace to all of you and best wishes for the new year.

A bientôt.

1/11/2015 update: Days have gone by. The killers met their fate. Heartwarming and inspiring scenes from Paris this weekend. I have been wondering how the surviving members of Charlie Hebdo were doing; and how they were feeling about the collective (yet peaceful) #JeSuisCharlie hysteria. The answer is here. This interview of Luz, long-time Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, may surprise you. Sobering, but necessary, I think.

Below are additional resources about this week’s events.

Additional information:

1. Le Chant des Partisans (The Partisans’ song) with English translation

2. Seattle French Community Vigil 01.07.15 (and French Girl in Seattle’s TV debut)

3. Meet the Charlie Hebdo Team and the other victims

4. Jon Stewart’s tribute: 

 

Le mot de la fin… The last word… Two Gauls, saluting other brave Gauls…

Asterix

 

I wrote another story about Charlie Hebdo ten days after the attacks.

You can find it here. — FGIS

29 Responses to A bientôt, Charlie Hebdo

  1. v all week -well since Wednesday- I have been clicking on your blog awaiting word …my sister is off FB so I no longer have that resource- after I would beg and plead for her password-I wanted SO MUCH to hear from you– thank you for taking time to research and present in an honest informative way- AS ALWAYS – I cried as I looked at their pictures on the top-and I cried when I watched Comme Une Francaise’s video… I actually started to watch and couldn’t and finally did this morning. I am watching the French channel in English, as this hostage situation unfolds my heart bled red, white and blue and still does for all our citizens lost in this ugly battle and now…. it bleeds blue, white, red… for the country I do not call home, but I LOVE WITH ALL MY HEART…I honor their bravery- all of them -including those nameless heroes working in the hot beds of turmoil all over the the world innocent victims ….. beyond words-

    • Thank you, my dear g. Your support has always meant a lot. This has been a difficult, emotional week. I have found much comfort in the French Girl in Seattle community, here, or on Facebook. France made her citizens proud. I do not care what some media say, or what spin they will put on this story: The country came together, stood up, and did not panic. Even President Hollande stepped up to the plate and led with a compassionate, dignified and firm hand. My heart is still heavy when I think about the victims and their families. It will be for a long time, but we need to move on. Please return to Facebook when you can, even if you have to create an account with an alias. That is the best way to stay in touch with the ever-growing French Girl in Seattle community. I share daily information there, and I know you will enjoy joining us, and commenting (just make sure to tell me what name you post under 😉 Hugs to you, g.

  2. My comment will be in French because when it comes to express feelings, my native language comes to my brain (maybe google translate may help, but not too confident in this tool).

    Charlie, je ne le lisais pas. Je me marrais bien à regarder les couvertures mais je pensais qu’ils souvent qu’ils allaient trop loin, forcément surtout quand ça me touchait moi. Pourtant à aucun moment je n’aurais songé à les interdire ou leur faire un procès parce qu’ils avaient un rôle important dans la société.C’était le rôle du bouffon d’antan. Ils tournaient les choses en ridicule et par là même, nous faisaient prendre conscience que c’était ridicule.

    Peut-on rire de tout ? Faut il avoir une communication “responsable” ? C’est un peu le débat que l’on commence à lire ici. Les USA ont un premier amendement qui autorise tout et pourtant, ils sont les premiers à dire qu’ils s’auto censurent (voire la presse du jour et les dessins floutés). Ce n’est pas le rôle de tous les journaux d’être en 1ère ligne, Ok, mais il doit exister des journaux “poils à gratter”, irrévérencieux comme Charlie Hebdo, sinon ils ont gagné !

    Oui mais qui sont ces “ils” ? Tous ceux qui pour des raisons de religions, de couleur, d’opinion s’octroient le droit de condamner à mort pour des idées. On est focalisé sur la France en ce moment mais si on regarde les infos, c’est actuellement partout que les idées sont combattues par les armes. Ce drame est à rapprocher du drame de l’île d’Utøya en Norvège. Des fous qui se sont abreuvé de la haine que leur ont inculqués des laches qui eux se terrent et envoyent au casse pipe des illuminés sur des promesses gratuites.

    La France se relèvera mais l’adage commun “il y aura un avant et un après” me fait peur vis à vis de l’après. Les réactions, les commentaires prouvent qu’encore un fois la classe politique est déconnectée du peuple. La polémique FN, pas FN, en est un exemple. C’était l’occasion de faire taire les idéologies pendant 96 h, ça aura tenu 2h.

    J’ai mal à ma France, par ce qui s’est passé (Cabu était aussi un dessinateur dans une émission de mon enfance et tous les “gamins” des années 70 s’en rappellent), par la peine que peuvent ressentir tous les proches mais aussi par les réactions qu’on lit déjà et ce qu’elles préfigurent de l’avenir.

    Merci Véronique aka French Girl in Seatlle pour ton texte et tes mots à la télé.

    I hope Google translate is not so bad after all.

    • Merci, Sylvain. Une réponse calme, réfléchie, et, qui, comme toujours, donne matière à réflexion. Je suis d’accord avec toi sur toute la ligne. J’ai été fière de la France cette semaine, y compris de sa classe politique, Hollande en tête, et des Français, jeunes, vieux, et de toutes confessions, qui se sont levés pour dire: “Ca suffit !” Maintenant, il faut que tout ça dure, et comme tu le soulignes, ça n’est pas gagné. On est tellement plus fort quand on serre les rangs… J’attends avec impatience, comme beaucoup, le numero de Charlie Hebdo mercredi prochain. Je n’aimerais pas être à leur place. Le monde a les yeux rivés sur eux. Il faut les soutenir, ces “poils à gratter.” La vie serait tellement plus triste, et plus ennuyeuse, sans eux. Merci encore de ta visite.

  3. My son I a French-American educated through graduate school in Paris in International Relations and Foreign Policy–and where he interned at ABC News with Jim Bitterman. We Love Paris. We Love France.

    I am heartbroken over this senseless act and have not seen or read a better, braver tribute, Véronique. I’ll be linking to it from FB and my site.

    My son and his lady love just returned from a much needed 10-day break in the French and Swiss Alps and am sure they are stunned and heartbroken, too.

    Hugs to you,

    Suzanne

    • Merci, Suzanne. I did my best, and felt better after “pouring my heart out” on the keyboard. A very small contribution, but everything counts. Thank you for your support. I know your family has very strong ties with France. Oh, and thank you for sharing this story with your readers, as well. Bonne année, Suzanne, even 2015 has not started off on the right foot.

  4. What a wonderful round-up of many sources. I was interested to read about the gathering in Seattle, as I didn’t know anything about it. My daughter participated in the one in Union Square, NYC, though.

    You did a great job on TV, albeit under sad circumstances.

    • Merci beaucoup Betty. I have enjoyed sharing information with the French Girl in Seattle community even more this week, than usual. I took it very seriously, and the feedback has been heartwarming. It was necessary, I believe.

  5. Thank you for reporting this horrific event in your excellent style. It has made me so sick and sad, just hideous. I hope they catch these brothers soon and no one else dies in the process.

    • Thank you, Cherie. Well, they caught the killers, as I always knew they would. The French police and special forces did us proud. A real shame some of them were wounded or lost their lives. It was so heartwarming to see the support they received from French people! They are not used to it, (the French are always so wary of authority, and so rebellious, like petulant children!) I know they must have felt good about it. We should learn what we can from this tragedy; put it behind us; and move forward. I will never forget the Charlie Hebdo team. Neither will the world, I suspect. Take care.

  6. You did a great job on the TV interview and I loved your beret, smile. What an incredible senseless tragedy. The next question, where is the woman terrorist that is in hiding? I am sure the French will find her. The French did an outstanding job of finding the brothers so quickly and ending the three days of terror.

  7. March 28,1979. Living in Paris, I strolled down Rue de Medicis on the way to Luxembourg and my #21 bus. Shortly after receiving my buerre-sucre crepe from the Greek man outside Le Petit Journal and preparing to board my bus, I heard a loud explosion. Screams, ambulances, terror as the Jewish restaurant on Rue de Medicis was bombed.

    January 2, 2015 Back in Paris, and writing a book on Paris in the 1970’s while upstairs at Shakespeare & Co, I wrote about my Algerian instructor at Alliance Francaise who left her homeland due to persecution of the Jews and came to Paris. I wrote about how horrible it would be to have people hate you – people who have never even met you, and how she must have felt when the restaurant was terrorized. I wrote these words one week ago, before the kosher market was terrorized.

    Now, back in Florida, I see the news and feel so sad that I wasn’t there this week to help, to show support, to care.

    They will not win. We will not be silenced. We may not all be Charlie, but we are all together, we are all one.

    • Thank you for your testimony. I can tell this story touches you on a personal level, too. Of course they will not win. There are vastly outnumbered, for one. Sure, they will cause more damage, more pain, more upheaval. We are not afraid, and they will not win. If I were in Paris right now, I would make a point to go out and go out often, just as I did during the terrorist attacks in the 1990s.

  8. Well done on your dignified television appearance Veronique. As with all such monstrous acts, of course their actions only serve to strengthen the resolve of the ones they tried to hurt or kill and those who love and respect them.
    I’m encouraged by the united response of the French people and will be watching (with Kleenex at the ready) as todays huge rally happens at 15.00 local time. Our prime minister will be there in an effort to show solidarity with the people of France.
    As you rightly say, this too will pass.

    • Thank you Craig. France has received an outpouring of support from around the world. It means a lot. I received many kind and uplifting messages, as “French Girl in Seattle.” I am lucky to know a wonderful community of francophiles, via the blog’s Facebook page. I just woke up here in Seattle, and am heading to my trusted laptop screen to live -however vicariously- some of the events that were scheduled in France today. Many outside France (based on comments I have read online,) do not realize how personal this feels to many French people. The guys who were slaughtered may just be known as just “Charlie Hebdo” to them, but several cartoonists, like Cabu, were artists most of us grew up with. They created fantastic characters outside of Charlie Hebdo too. Well, we will not forget them, and will support their friends and colleagues, should they decide to continue. That is the least we can do! Thank you for your visit.

  9. So interesting to see and hear your point of view on this, Véronique. I read this as the news of the second situation at the grocery store was breaking, but haven’t had a chance to comment until this morning – where news today is of so many marching in the streets of Paris. I’m praying for peace and love – in Paris, in France, and on our planet. I truly believe that we all hold responsibility for living in the way we want the world to be — and that love will win over hate in the end.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  10. What a wonderful thing it is to see the connection of nations being made across the world in recent days to respect and honour this senseless and tragic loss. The Seattle tribute I saw by podcast was very dignified and it was such a wonderful thing to see your TV debut in the midst of all.

    Nous sommes Charlie

    From your European friends x

  11. I’ve been so shocked and saddenend by the events of the past week keeping up with developments on France 24. As you know I have genuine affection for France. I can understand why you needed to take part in the vigil which was obviously very emotional and it was so impressive to see the crowds gathering at Place de la République at the weekend.

    • Merci, miss b. Thank goodness for the (good) media that enable us all to follow the news practically Live. I don’t know what I would have done with myself without TV 5 Monde and Facebook this week. It helped a lot to be there at least “in thought,” and to share information with the French Girl in Seattle followers on Facebook. I hope all is well with you in the UK. A bientôt.

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