Each week sends another reminder of the sheer barbarity, intolerance and fanaticism of individuals we have conveniently collectively labelled “terrorists”. They are not like us, we think, nothing like us, yet we would not be able to distinguish those same individuals if they stood beside us in the checkout queue at Coles. Like serial killers and other wrongdoers, they do not have stigmata or two heads. This makes their conduct all the more horrifying.
Yet out of the darkness there is also light. From the Lindt Cafe hostage tragedy we saw the emergence of a generosity of spirit under the tag “I’ll ride with you”. From the Charlie Hebdo massacre there has been a worldwide sharing of grief and support under the banner “Je Suis Charlie”, meaning “I am Charlie.”
The words, exhibited at rallies across the globe, are a declaration that people will not let freedom of speech be silenced by bullets and blades. Often these signs are accompanied by pens held aloft, a symbol not only of the pen being mightier than assault rifles but also in memory of the journalists and cartoonists who were executed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine whose name means Weekly Charlie, a reference to Charlie Brown of Peanuts and an inside joke about Charles de Gaulle.
If the aim of the slaughter had been to silence opposition, then instead it has had the reverse effect.
At many of the worldwide spontaneous demonstrations of support, people have held enlarged versions of cartoons published in various countries in support of the cartoonists' deceased comrades. The cartoons make points poignantly and forcefully in a way that words cannot.
A selection appears below.
Je Suis Charlie.
“And this is our gun.” A cartoon from Chile