11 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie, Nous Sommes Charlie

For today, I am going to forget what I normally write about on this and my other blog--sort of.

In terms of content, this post will not resemble others I've written.  However, It will express concern for everything that makes this blog, and others, possible.  In fact, some of those things even make it possible for me to do the very thing I write about on this blog:  ride a bike.

You see, in some cultures, women aren't allowed to ride bicycles--or go to school, read, write, teach or do much of anything besides bear a man's children and submit to his demands.  In such places, someone like me doesn't have the right to be a woman--let alone a cyclist--at all.

That is the reason why I am writing today to express my solidarity with all of those people who rallied in my home town as well as London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Montreal, Berlin and many other cities around the world--and, of course, in France, most prominently in Paris.

I have lived in the City of LIght.  So have some people I've loved and with whom I've worked.  They've been native-born French people--some of ancient Gallic and Frankish heritage, others born to families who emigrated to France from other places in this world.  They've been Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and people who didn't adhere to any formal religion or philosophy, or who believed in nothing at all beyond this life.  They've been wealthy, poor and, mainly, in-between.  

The thing is, they all knew that their right to be any, all  or none of the things I've mentioned was protected under the laws of their country.  And, while some expressed resentment or condescension toward America--or, more precisely, toward our misconceptions or simple unawareness of our position in the world, they all have expressed respect, admiration and sometimes even wistfulness for the openness of our society and the generous spirit of Americans they've met. 

A man holds a giant pencil as he takes part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris, 11 January 2015
Demonstrators hold up pencils to express ther support for freedom of expression.

The rallies, like funerals and memorial services, are about grieving those who died in the attacks on the Chrlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris.  But, just as important, they are a reminded of what we--I, the people I've mentioned, and everyone else--need to do:  to live, as the people we are, free to pursue our dreams, honor or values, to love those we love--and, always, to speak the truth, whether through simple facts, irony, images, humor or in some other way.  We can't let those who murdered seventeen Parisians during the past week take that liberty, that right, away from us.

Je suis Charlie.  Nous sommes Charlie. 

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