Wednesday, January 7, 2015. Two hooded cowards burst into Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France, killing 12 people – cartoonists, editors, columnists, police, and a building maintenance worker. Others innocents are killed in the ensuing days, as a Paris-wide manhunt comes to a bloody end.
The world shouts Je suis Charlie, posts graphics and condolences on Facebook and Twitter, change social media avatars, make signs, attend rallies and vigils, join together in parades, speak out against intolerance and in defense of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
What does it mean to be Charlie? Taken literally, the principles Charlie Hebdo stands for hardly can be categorized as mainstream. The magazine is irreverent, non-conformist, anti-authoritarian, anti-racist, anti-religious, left wing, provocative, offensive. It’s satirical, controversial, unafraid to push boundaries and point a finger when others sheepishly, safely look away. Charlie Hebdo makes people squirm, makes others boil, makes some laugh, and incites others to murder.
As 2015 began, we all shouted Je suis Charlie! Now, some time has passed. Are you still Charlie? Or have you quietly slid back into your comfortable life?
When was the last time you challenged authority? Stared down a bully? Protected the weak? Stood up to your misguided boss? Questioned your professor? Called out the members of congress who say they represent your interests, while filling their pockets with the influence of special interests?
Do you think for yourself, or do you blindly believe everything you’re told? Do you want to take action? Or do you actually take action?
Je suis Charlie? Don’t tell me. Show me.