Yes, I know. Our columnists here at ComicMix used to be pretty damn political. Eventually we drifted too far off of our happy little pop culture topic, and we retrenched. Well, sort of. Martha, Michael Davis and I moved our noisy political stuff over to www.MichaelDavisWorld.com . Therefore, at the outset I am telling you this column, delayed somewhat by my blind anger (thanks for filling, Emily!), is completely on topic.
You’ve probably heard about the bombing of the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by militant Islamists. Two gunmen stole a car, drove up to the paper’s office in Paris, and started blasting away on their AK-47s shouting “We have avenged the Prophet.” Then they split the scene, postponing their visit with their 72 virgins.
As of this writing, 12 people have been confirmed dead, including the editor, two policemen, and noted cartoonists: Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Georges Wolinski, and Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac. Another 11 were wounded.
I’m not going to tell you a bunch of stuff you already know. This sort of thing has become all too common. Besides, comic book fan Salman Rushdie said it better than I ever could:
“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
Our fearless disrespect. Every once in a while, a writer knocks out a phrase so perfect that I think I should retire.
I wonder how the late Mad Magazine publisher Bill Gaines would have responded. He was a libertarian from back when the word wasn’t jingoistic. I knew Bill some, and my guess is that he would have been really pissed. He would have felt a kinship with the staff and talent at Charlie Hebdo… or so I think.
Now here’s the funny part of the story. Somebody reading these very words right now is thinking “It can’t happen here.” After two bombings at New York City’s original World Trade Center, a bombing at the Pentagon, a bombing of a child care center in Oklahoma City, various individual serial bombers like George Metesky and John “Ted” Kaczynski, the bombing of the J.P. Morgan bank on Wall Street, the bombing of the Los Angeles Times, the armed attack on Congress by Puerto Rican separatists… it most certainly can happen here.
Fortunately, we’ve got an outfit that helps – helps – protect cartoonists here. It’s called the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They do excellent work. I am proud to be a supporter; if you’re not already, you would be too. Check out their web page. They cover international incidents as well as domestic; today Maren Williams wrote a great piece about the Paris attack.
“Funny” doesn’t make you safe. Ask Lenny Bruce.
It’s time to stand up and be counted.