Today, in Paris, five cartoonists were murdered for their art. Their names were Wolinski, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous, and Charb--respectively, George David Wolinski (1934-2015), Jean Cabut (1938-2015), Philippe Honoré (1941-2015), Bernard Verlhac (1957-2015), and Stéphane Charbonnier (1967-2015). One cartoonist, Corinne Rey, escaped with her life. In all likelihood, there have never been so many cartoonists to die in one day, certainly never in a single incident. Those five murdered cartoonists probably outnumber all other murdered cartoonists in history. The men who murdered them subscribe to a belief system that readily and perversely claims martyrdom in murder. The true martyrs today were the cartoonists themselves. Ironically, they worked for a leftist and anti-religious newspaper called Charlie Hebdo, and in consequence might very well decline conventional martyrdom. Perhaps significantly, one of the cartoonists was Jewish.
Like artists everywhere, those five French cartoonists sought to bring new things into creation, to express themselves through their art, and to throw the light of truth upon a benighted earth. And like cartoonists everywhere, they wished to expose the evil, corruption, folly, and oppression that exist among men and their institutions. For that they were murdered by the kind of men who have existed in every time and place, men who seek to deny free expression and to deprive others of their rights, their freedoms, their property, and their lives, men who prefer darkness to light and lies to the truth. These men go by a different name today than they did during much of the twentieth century, yet we have seen their kind before and we have defeated them before. We can defeat them again by recognizing the threat, by taking action against those who threaten us and our way of life, but perhaps most importantly by not sympathizing or collaborating with them, and by not supporting them or excusing their actions in any way, as so many in Europe, Great Britain, and America seem so willing to do. An added irony is that today's murderers did by violence what some Western governments, certain journalists, and various individuals have wished to do by disapprobation, censorship, or force of law--they silenced the voices of dissent.
If we are to survive, we must have the clarity of vision, the uncompromising desire to tell the truth, and the quotidian courage of the artist--the cartoonist--who stands at the barricades against murder, lies, tyranny, and oppression. I have a modest proposal: Let January 7 forever after today be the International Day of the Cartoonist.
Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley