Charlie Hebdo is a French magazine, which has (figuratively) come under fire in the last few years by Islamic extremists for publishing cartoons deemed (by them) to be offensive. Numerous threats had been made against the magazine for their portrayals of the prophet Muhammed, whom, according to Islamic custom, must never be depicted in any form.
On Wednesday, January 7th, Islamic terrorists stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, armed with heavy machine guns, and brutally murdered a dozen people.
My brother Aaron, who is a great cartoonist in his own right, wrote a particularly moving blog post about it. Seriously, check it out.
I have been drawing cartoons since I was big enough to pick up a pencil. And, earlier in my life, I drew my fair share of offensive cartoons. Racial stereotypes. Foul language. Alcohol and tobacco usage. Admittedly, I did so out of ignorance rather than intent, but the cartoons remained the same.
When I heard about what happened to the artists, writers, editors, and other individuals of Charlie Hebdo, it made me angry. So angry, in fact, that I wanted to intentionally create something that would offend the pants off of the militants responsible for the violence. They thought that Charlie Hebdo was offensive? I thought. Wait till they get a load of me.
But then, as I was coming up with harmful ideas, I found myself feeling more and more wary. I have a wife, and two little girls to think about. What if someone who knew me saw the cartoon? What would they think? Would it cause someone to think badly of Hillary, or the girls? I don't think I know any Muslim extremists, but, then again, the people at Charlie Hebdo probably though they were safe in their offices too.
Put bluntly, I was a little afraid.
And then I realized what really separated me from the employees of Charlie Hebdo.
They drew and wrote what they wanted, regardless of who it angered. They pushed the buttons of the brutes and bullies of the world, during a time when those buttons desperately needed pushed. These groups are killing innocent civilians, kidnapping schools full of young girls, and laying roadside bombs for troops who simply want to get back to their families. Our governments respond with appropriate military force. Peace groups respond with condemnation. Actual followers of Islam do their best to remind us that normal Muslims have as little in common with the extremists as the rest of us.
And cartoonists pen satire, raining animated shame on the oh-so-deserving.
No one should ever be afraid of doing what they love, no matter who it angers. But, all too often these days, the response to creativity similar to that displayed in Charlie Hebdo has become "Don't do it that way, because we said so."
Twelve people lost their lives at Charlie Hebdo because they spoke their minds, and I'm too nervous to draw an offensive cartoon for a blog that might be seen by a hundred people. If I'm lucky.
The world is fortunate to have had the creative and brave people who worked, and still work, at the French publication. Hopefully these terrorist acts, which were meant to silence creativity, will inspire more artists to tread where others are afraid to go.
And, judging from the outcry from cartoonists of the world, that exactly what they're doing.
I'm just one guy with a sketchpad and some markers. I don't even know how to use photoshop. But I wanted to show my support, too.
Yes, I am so technologically inept that I took a picture of the cartoon with my phone.
Yes, that's my brother and I. I stole a little of his signature style when drawing him. Seriously, check out his blog from the links above. You won't be disappointed.