The rain that fell this morning felt like tears on my cheeks. When I got home from my run and turned on the television, France was holding a minute of silence for those shot and killed yesterday in the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The people standing on the streets of Paris also had wet faces, their vision blurred by both rain and tears.
It seems like every minute of every day we are being assaulted with bad news. News that saddens, angers and frustrates. Why did this particular piece of news keep me awake last night and make me want to write? I can’t possibly aim to compete with some of the intense thoughts and opinions that have been published in the past 24 hours, but maybe expressing myself here will give some ease.
Paris was my first home away from home. This time ten years ago, I was heading back to Sciences Po, facing into a semester that would be full of exposés, exams and stress, but also friendship and camaraderie. Just the thought of Paris makes me tilt my head in fondness and love.
In addition to the Sciences Po torture, I was gathering information for my final year dissertation (Oui mais…: the French and the European Constitution, if you must know). Given its topical nature, my research mainly consisted of buying a newspaper every day and cutting out relevant articles. At the time, I wasn’t very familiar with the French love of cartoons and satire, but after a while, it became very clear that a picture really does tell a thousand words. So I started cutting out all the relevant cartoons as well. It drove me crazy that these talented artists could express so much in one small drawing, while I would have to write thousands of words to say much the same thing. When it became clear that I wouldn’t be allowed to submit a cartoon-based dissertation, I did the next best thing and began each chapter with a satirical cartoon. I don’t know if it made any difference to my eventual grade, but hopefully it lightened the mood for the assessors.
Anyway, here we are today, mourning the death of some of France’s talented creators and an attack on our freedom of expression. Their pictures, irreverent and button-pushing, told thousands of words and provoked even more. They did not deserve to die for their work, but anyone who is prepared to kill will never be able to understand that. I was awake last night trying to find a solution, but the only answer seems to be to keep going and to follow the words that a wise man once said to me: Love your enemies, it really annoys them.