…and Fraternité stepped up to the plate.
“The invention of the printing-press is the greatest event in history. It was the mother of revolutions. It was the total renewal of man’s mode of expression, the human mind sloughing off one form to put on another, a complete and definitive change of skin by that symbolic serpent which, ever since Adam, has represented the intelligence. In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, elusive, indestructible. It mingles with the air.”
– Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This is the motto of the République Francaise. Yesterday, January 1st, 2015, armed gunmen tried to silence liberty when the office of a French satirical magazine known for its irreverent caricatures of various religions , Charlie Hebdo, was assailed. The rain of bullets left 12 dead, spread a flood of fear and tears and erected a sea-wall of humanity, bound together in indestructible determination to curtail the erosion of freedom by religious extremism.
France’s own Victor Hugo essentially wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame to express the importance of preserving art of all genres. He believed that the ideas of an era are passed into perpetuity by its architecture, its literature, its art. But what is art without freedom of expression? Art, which has been described as a mirror to through which society regards its own countenance but also the hammer by which society is shaped, hinges on liberty just as freedom hinges on art.
The tactic of silencing artists to quell the ideas and passions of a society is as old as art itself. From the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1940s and 50s to censorship in the GDR, there have been sundry attempts to stave off our imagination and to keep us captive in deed and mind. Never to be outdone, Islamic extremists have taken, time and again, to spilling blood over art as though the sanguine substance would congeal to occlude our brains. As evidenced by an article on Joshua Keating’s article on Slate.com , artists such as novelist Salman Rushdie, are high on terrorist hit lists. The New Yorker’s George parker hit the nail dead on the head when he wrote:
“…the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society.”
Stéphane Charbonnier, editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo who lost his life in today’s heinous massacre, was quoted in 2012 by by French newspaper , Le Monde, as having declared, “Je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux”. Jamais à genoux, Charb! Never on your knees! Charb, Cabu, Wolinisky, Tignous, Maris, Renaud, Honoré and each of the five others who were matyred, you did not draw your last breath yesterday. Your comrades in arms, from all corners of the globe, in dolor and defiance, raised their swords of graphite in glorious tandem and gallantly etched you in you and all that you stood for for, all that your did not buckle for, into our psyches forever. Fraternité ensured the Liberté prevailed, that we may all enjoy Égalité. You were not silenced. We hear you louder than ever. We see you clearer than before. Because we are all Charlie. Nous sommes tous Charlie.
“Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”- Salman Rushdie