In a show of support, people around the planet are sharing the phrase Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie). This is a peaceful show of solidarity against the atrocity that was committed. It is also a show of support for freedom of expression and for the culturally-essential practice of satire.
But I ask: Êtes-vous Charlie? Vraiment? Wouldn't you have to know a lot about a publication to make that statement?
If you know all about Charlie Hebdo, okay. But it is one thing to show support for your unjustly murdered fellow humans; it's another to blindly support a publication you know nothing about. I find it hard to believe that everyone who has shared that phrase knows all about the paper.
In these circumstances, life takes precedence. We care more about the souls of the fallen than anything else and I don't want to seem as if I am providing any shred of support for what happened there nor as if I feel anything but sorrow ans compassion for my fellow writers whose choices should never have resulted in that kind of attack. But statements of mutual identification will not help us in the long run and they can skew reality. As far as you know, if you haven't read the words or seen the cartoons, Charlie Hebdo could represent things you don't believe in. If that's the case, are you really comfortable with saying, "Je suis Charlie?"
Just a few days ago, I wrote about the disturbing trend of childish theatrics in protest. This is not the same thing, but it is related. What's more important, making an impact or communicating truth? (And you may very well pick the former, which would pretty much end this discussion.)
If you've read the articles, seen the cartoons and espoused the philosophies of Charlie Hebdo, by all means, utter, proudly and loudly the phrase, Je suis Charlie! If not, how about a more mundane, but more accurate phrase like, "Je soutiens Charlie!" It would still fit on the signs and memes. (I hope that isn't horrible French -- that the French use "support" in the same metaphoric sense Americans do; if not, forgive me, but the point remains.)
So, I'll say it: Je soutiens Charlie! But I am not Charlie, any more than I am Fred Flintstone.
May the deceased writers of Charlie Hebdo rest in peace. May their fanatical, bestial killers come to whatever just punishment Fate or God or Allah declares.