Day Seven: Je Suis Charlie.

In Mourning.

In Mourning.

Mrs Playmo left home with a band-roll and two pencils last night. She asked me to help her to put the pencils upright in the grass, then taped her message to them and asked me to take the picture.

Playmobilia doesn’t have this kind of bad guy. There are pirates, and warriors, and Greeks in strappy sandals toting shields and arrows, and Amanda Shacklebottom, who goes for dates with other people’s husbands. But only Policemen have guns on Playmo Street. Nobody has ever been worried about a fundamentalist with a Kalashnikov pelting into their office and shooting everyone in sight.

When the two terrorists came out of Charlie Hebdo’s premises, they crowed that they had avenged their prophet and that Charlie Hebdo was dead. They could not be further from the truth. What Charlie Hebdo stood for is more alive than it ever was before. Did they really think that killing people could restrain freedom of expression? The exact opposite has happened. Pencils and pens were immediately unsheathed and social networks overflowed with cartoons that condemned and mocked their behavior. An overwhelming sea of support for France rose in countries all around the world. Three words, “Je suis Charlie”, were translated into a multitude of languages and so many black and white copies of it were printed that the shops will be out of new cartridges next week.

The staff at Charlie Hebdo were armed with nothing more than pencils, yet pencils appear to be a far more effective weapon than guns in the fight for democracy and freedom of expression. Snap it in two, and we will sharpen each part and continue drawing.

At the aptly named Place de la Liberté this evening, the mayor of our little village was visibly moved to see the number of inhabitants who had turned out in memory of the victims at Charlie Hebdo. Hundreds of them. School children, their parents, their grandparents, all holding signs and candles. The retired lady beside me was close to tears. She told me that her husband could not bring himself to attend; he was still affected after being in the train that was blown up by Carlos in 1983. But she was there to show terrorism that it could not win. Proof that humans are resilient and determined in the face of brutality.

The terrorists wanted to bring France to its knees, but they have achieved exactly the opposite. The French are standing tall, united and determined that terrorism will not result in a meltdown of the principles on which its society is built. I am proud to live here.

Aux crayons, citoyens! Take up your pencils… and fight against intolerance.


51 thoughts on “Day Seven: Je Suis Charlie.

    • Thank you, Betty. There are a lot of raw feelings today. Bigfoot called tonight to talk – he’s so shocked, disappointed and angry. There are things you just can’t explain to your children no matter how hard you try.

  1. Oh, MM & Mrs. Playmo, my heart aches for you and for so many tonight.
    I’m seeking to find some degree of solace tonight in the fact that tragedy has been known to bring people together and spark flames of hope, but I’m falling just short of the mark.
    Most days, I fear that the truly warped and tortured souls of this world have heeded the call to the battlefront and are succeeding at reshaping the world as we once knew it.
    But there are blessed moments where I find myself finding great relief in the mundane, and great respect for those eccentrics like Mrs. Playmo and ordinary folk like the retired lady. For those folk who find the courage to get out of bed, carry about their daily 5 km walk in the countryside, and end up at a vigil in a show of solidarity.
    Je suis Charlie.

    • I hope that the French state will revise their policy on dual nationality now, and that any person who is found guilty of any form of terrorism will be stripped of their French nationality, imprisoned for the entire term of their sentence then kicked out and refused entry to France. Maybe we’ve been finding too many excuses for these people. Sorry, angry moment over.
      I am reassured, and also saddened, to see how my children have reacted. Disbelief, anger, tears. They’ve grown visibly older in the space of twenty-four hours. I was lucky I had work to do today, it kept my mind occupied. The walk was a necessary part of the therapy for Mrs Playmo and I.
      Huge hugs to you, Gypsy Charlie. Stay safe xxx

      • I get the angry moment. It’s right that you should write it down. It embodies ”aux crayons, Citoyens”.
        You tell Mrs. Playmo to keep on walking.
        And you keep on writing 🙂

  2. Tell me about it… one of our daughters lives 4km from the scene of the attack. She was holed up in her apartment all afternoon yesterday, under some sort of media orders (rather illogically, but OK) and now is afraid to take the métro…and then I had to deal with all of my traumatised BAC+1 students this morning. It has been hard.

    • Oh, crap. You must have been scared out of your mind. To say nothing of how your daughter must have felt ….
      I can’t blame her for being afraid. But stopping living a normal life is doing exactly what these toads want. Don’t give them the satisfaction, I say.

  3. What a perversion of religion….
    I did like your image of the pencil, snapped in two and thus doubling its use….I could see that in action as many hands took up their pencils to defy this filth.

    Don’t know why it’s in caps!!! Sorry

    • 🙂 I saw the capitals and wondered if I was going to be told off by an irate reader…. Thank for the lovely comment. Many people in the media are focussing on the loss of the cartoonists, yet as you say, twelves families lost a loved one on Wednesday, and on Thursday a policewoman was killed by gunfire. All of them died doing their jobs. Such a waste 😦
      I’m glad you’re enjoying Mrs Playmo’s daily déboires. Watch this space!

  5. The pen is mightier than the sword. I hope so MM. Thinking of you and your countrymen at this difficult time.
    As you say it is explaining it to our children that hurts. Watching them take in your words and realise that the world is not how they believed it to be. Even after I explained it to my daughter she still said, “But I don’t understand why”

    • The pen is most definitely a more intelligent weapon than the sword. At least it is in my book (ha ha). A friend of mine has two four year-olds. They apparently said that if they didn’t like a book, they simply put it down, they didn’t rip it up. And as for killing someone for their drawings… How on earth can anyone explain that to a child?

      • i heard a lovely Imam on the radio today who lives in Ireland. He was speaking of how difficult it was to answer the questions of muslim school children yesterday.
        He said he went home in tears.

      • Being from the US, that is where my thoughts went. Tric’s comment above brought tears to my eyes, when her child said “But I don’t understand why.” My little one was four years old when I had to explain about the 9/11 attack. That was when I discovered children are vastly more astute regarding trauma than the psychologists say.

  6. You have brilliantly captured the silver lining of this abominable act. It seems that freedom of expression transcends race, religion and nationality. I have never felt so proud to be French. Je suis Charlie!

    • Thank you. I cannot be proud to be French: I only have one nationality. But I am proud to live here, and proud to share the values of the French republic. Proud enough to stand up on the public square in Pavia, Italy, and sing the Marseillaise with my brother-in-law, hand on heart, the only spectators singing the French national anthem in a sea of Italians watching the France – Italy final of the world cup. My husband looked terrified but the Italians around us, funnily enough, smiled. it was the best example I have ever seen of freedom of speech.

    • Thanks, Miss B. Funnily enough, people aren’t scared, they’re indignant and revolted. Revolution is a French speciality. The more you attack the French, the more they will pile it on. Cos that’s the way they roll. Everyone is keeping their eyes well open, but nobody’s going to stop working or be scared by this scum.

  7. Well said, MM, but what makes me rire jaune is the hypocritical calls for free speech by a media who only very recently was trying to gag Eric Zemmour, and applies a strict censorship, or risk being hauled up before Chambre 17.

    Free speech has been manacled in this country for years.

    • Ah, but free speech for many is simply the right to say anything, as long as it follows general consensus. Generally they are the ones who defend democracy but openly state that the National Front should not be allowed to exist as a party. In light of recent events, Eric Zemmour’s book seems to be frighteningly possible. So many people are so obsessed with their “politically correct” principles that they are completely missing the point.

  8. You have captured the essence of what it is to be free and not be conquered by evil. Extremely well-written piece!

    • Thank you. I wish that writing was enough to fight all this. Although I did hear a very emotional speech by a teacher who quoted Voltaire, who said that the French should “crush the despicable” when referring to religious obscurantism. Words and art don’t lose their impact over time.

  9. I read your post yesterday, and in tears, could not comment. There are tragedies all over the world, but this one strikes an emotional chord that bites deeply. I have listened to so many voices from France, via interviews on the BBC, and the shock and defiance and shuddering sadness comes through the radio. The French people have touched me with their reaction, and made this tragedy more real for me, so far away.

    I am grateful for your ability to write this, so that those of us who cannot yet find the words can reach out in solidarity. I am grateful that Mrs. Playmo took a stand.

    • I didn’t want to make anyone cry, but how can anyone not do so….? Today France is defiant and this situation has made everyone think about the position they take on immigration and race issues. Three cops died – in “racial” terms, one white, one black, one arab, andIn human terms, three people who were all French, all cops, and all died defending French citizens and their fundamental rights. Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité.

  10. Beautifully written as always, MM, and summing up what so many of us, French or not, are feeling. The ignorance of those who thought that their actions would crush the spirit of Charlie Hebdo and the centrality of free speech is frightening, yet pathetic. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

    • What really hurts in all this is that they claimed to be doing it in the name of their God. It’s insulting for all who believe, whatever their faith. Using something so important for many as an excuse to commit the most atrocious crimes is proof that they are pure evil.

      • Absolutely, MM. Muslims all over the world must be horrified to the core at what has been done because of a perverted view of their religion.

      • I’m going to stick my neck out here (unfortunate choice of terms when speaking of islam) and say that luckily, the majority of muslims have the humanity and intelligence to ignore the parts of the Koran that should not be applied in civilized society. The same parts that are used by crackpots to justify the unjustifiable in the name of religion.

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