It’s been an emotional week.
In the aftermath of the horrors that took place in Paris this week, the mood in France is subdued.
After the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, I didn’t realise at first that my favourite cartoonist was among those killed. When I saw his name in the list of victims, anger replaced shock.
I had grown up with “Cabu”, as he was known. Every Wednesday afternoon, he used to appear on this kid’s French show and do a quick drawing lesson. He was funny, he was talented and he was part of our childhood. Now he’s been murdered – senselessly.
I phoned my friend as soon as I saw his name listed among the dead – gosh I was angry. Only when she answered, all I could say was: “the bastards killed Cabu!” in a voice choked with tears.
And that’s what it’s been like among the French this week: anger intermingling with sadness and defiance.
Every one in France has been touched by the tragedy. Even people who didn’t care much about the magazine Charlie Hebdo, even people who didn’t agree with most of what was published in it.
When the terrorists murdered those people, they attacked our values, they attacked the French spirit, they attacked the whole of France.
They tried to tell the French that freedom of speech should be suppressed, that it could be punished and sanctioned.
They obviously didn’t understand who we are. They could kill hundred and thousands of us and yet we would still defend the right to free speech to the end.
That is why the whole of France is standing united and defiant. Because ‘they’ killed people for drawing, for expressing an opinion – and they killed them in the name of religion ffs.
The French community in the English town I live in organised a vigil for the Charlie Hebdo victims on Thursday night. Thanks to Facebook (it does have its uses) we organised the whole thing very quickly. There was about 150 of us in attendance but it was very cathartic. As we lit the candles, brandished our pencils and signs and paid our respects to the dead – we felt at one with Paris and at one with France.
The terrorists are now dead. It’s ironic that they died after trying to threaten our freedom of speech – only for their actions to actually make it stronger than ever. They died after attempting to create chaos and mayhem in France – and only succeeded in uniting us all: Nous sommes tous Charlie.