Thank you for your concern. Me and my family are ok. Yesterday we were celebrating my mother's 80th birthday at our home and we had 20 people over plus some who where staying at our place for the weekend. Friday evening was a shock for all of us but we were happy to spend quality time all together yesterday with good food and good wine flowing.
It's « funny » because yesterday, talking with our friends and family, I realized that people were far more shocked with what happened this Friday compared to what happened in January with Charlie. For the very simple reason that they could relate more to the random killings of Friday because they figured it could have happened to them (had they been in the neighborhood) and that it could happen to them again in the future if some more terrorists were to strike again. For me, I was a lot more affected in January, for two main reasons:
1) In 1995, we already had terrorist attacks. At the time, it was bombs that exploded at random in the metro or in trashcans outside on the streets. There was one bomb that exploded at the top of one of the avenues at the Arch of Triumph where I had just made a picture stop with my group. The bomb exploded just as I was the last one to get back on the bus. Had the bomb exploded 60 seconds earlier, you and I would never have met… This is to say that I have been aware since then that it could happen to me anywhere, anytime, and my time had not come yet.
2) In January, the journalists and cartoonists of Charlie were not killed at random: they were assassinated. They were not killed because of their beliefs but because of their conviction that they needed to defend OUR freedom of speech and because they had the guts to make the position statement that no religion (and no fanatic of any religion) is above criticism or a good joke. Because of that, they had to live their lives as recluses for 10 years because of numerous death threats until it finally happened for real. When they died, I lost spiritual friends that I was reading with a lot of pleasure every week, and their loss, as intellectual thinkers and humorists, still leaves a big gap in my life.
I am very sad for all the people (and their families) who lost their lives Friday evening in Paris (the same way we were very sad for the death of the hundreds of innocent people who died in the World Trade Center in 2001) but I cannot have more empathy for them than I have for the thousands of people who have drowned (and continue to, without making the headlines, every single day that goes by) in the Mediterranean sea while trying to escape from the same murderers who commit every day massacres in their homelands. May all the innocents rest in peace and the murderers rot in hell…
Still, I was moved by all the sympathy we received from all over the world and your president brought the first tear to my eyes when he uttered in French « liberté, égalité, fraternité »…
I’m afraid the French will from now on also have to learn to live in a country which is at war inside its borders and which forever will be... because there will always be fanatical cretins who have nothing better else to do with their rotten pitiful lives than to blow themselves up together with as many innocent people as possible. Hate of the others blinds them, but our love for each other and for democracy is stronger than their hate. And the fools don’t know that « Paris will always be Paris » and its beauty will always surpass their own ugliness. Visiting Paris was until now for most people a discovery and a quest, I believe it will from now on also be a position statement for democracy, for freedom of action and freedom of speech, for the beauty and the necessity of art and culture, and for contempt towards all the lost souls who want to keep us away from all this".
And I must say that, as I read my prose again three years later, I wouldn't change one word. Ok, I didn't HAVE to share this text with you today, but I wanted to... so that we take a little time to honor not only the victims killed every day at random, but also the ones who died in order to protect OUR freedom of speach.
You see, the problem in 2006 was not that Charlie published those cartoons about Mohammed as a support to the Danish newspaper. The problem was that they were the only ones who did it (one week after France-Soir though). And, for them, at the time, the issue was not to decide if they had the "guts" or not to publish cartoons for fear of retaliation from a group of fanatics, no, for them there was no issue at all: it was simply unthinkable according to their ethics not to have stood-by those Danish writers and not to have revendicated their/our freedom of speach.
To those men who defended our rights and died for their convictions, I have only one word: respect.
And respect also for the ones who survived, because they defended our rights just the same and, even though they didn't die in the process, not only do they have to live forever with the trauma of what happened on January 7th, 2015, but they will always have to live in fear, hidden from the public (except in highly secured areas on rare occasions) because there's a death warrant over their heads... just because they dared think that nothing was sacred enough not to be joked about...
Ok, I agree: a lot of Charlie's jokes are offensive. But they are jokes, for Christ's sake! (to name only one). And you don't have to buy their paper and read those bad jokes if you don't like them! Like you don't have to go to a bar or a porn-theater if you can't deal with it!
Ah, my good friends, what has become of the definition of the word "freedom" as it was drafted by Mirabeau, Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" of 1789?
Article IV: "Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others".
Article V: "The law has the right to forbid only actions harmful to society".
I guess those were just ideals, because we still have to fight for those rights nowadays...
But, then again, already in 1793 (only 4 years after Article IV had been written), on 8th of November,
at 5.15 pm on Place de la Concorde (which was then called "Place de la Révolution") where a statue symbolizing "Liberty" recently stood in place of the king's statue which had been destroyed the year before, Madame Roland, on her way to the scaffold while looking towards the statue of Liberty alledgedly said: "Liberty, liberty, how many crimes are being commited in your name?".
Here below is an email that I wrote on November 16, 2015 and which I sent to some of my American clients/friends after they inquired about me and my family following the 2015 November 13th bombings and shootings:
By Pierre-Antoine Demachy. The Statue of Liberty is on the left.