It’s been a “Charlie“-heavy week on TBS, as it has for many publications, and we wrap it up with a short piece by Juliette Furio about what it’s like on the ground in Paris.
The overriding feeling is one of unity.
That of solidarity in the face of fear.
It is that of love; for one another, for the liberty to express oneself and to live.
From the standpoint of a person experiencing #JeSuisCharlie from a purely media-driven perspective, I understand how it could appear contrived and driven to the debate over semantics that it has become over social media.
Here is the fact of the matter. After the initial 12 murders at Charlie Hebdo (estimated between 11-17 at the time), a period of disbelieving mourning took over the city of Paris. We were “sad,” perhaps even in shock, but not personally involved. As the implications of these murders took effect – an act against freedom of thought and speech – and a chase for the assassins took place, the seriousness of the matter began to sink in.
But it’s not until it is your turn, as you are mindlessly exiting the metro and hear a cry of anguish, as you reach the exit in a state of semi-fearfullness, wondering what that sound means and then SEE people running, police officers screaming at you to “GET OUT OF THE STATION!” and you RUN for your life, believing that at any moment the walls are going to start crumbling around you…
it’s not until then, when you reach ground level and gasp for air, that you truly feel the ramifications of the word “fear.”
After this moment, every siren that passes is like a saw on your nerves.
Every news bulletin, whether observed on the headlines of a newspaper kiosk or overheard in the streets, has the stench of tragedy.
You. Are. Scared.
You can die.
It is finally a reality and there it is that the true meaning of #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) arises; those deaths could have been your final moments and heading towards the peace rally could be your last. Fear is real, but the want to be with people is stronger, to stand in solidarity with those who live through that paranoia with you and yet are still standing – side by side, Jewish by Christian by Muslim – well, it chases that fear for your life away. These 1.5 million people are standing in solidarity with me, as I stand with them. There is no want for revenge here, no feelings of violence or hate. The rally moves at a snails pace, people shuffling along and smiling at one another. Someone is playing Bob Marley; a dad walks along with his little girl sitting proudly on his shoulders. He tears at the sight of so, so many people. His wife places her hand on his shoulder tenderly and smiles at me. We will not be scared. We live, we are human and that is what unites us.
When I proudly brandish the words #JeSuisCharlie, it means that I too choose unity over fear.