Monday, January 12, 2015

What A Hero Looks Like

This is what a hero looks like:

Please note: he is black. He is wearing a hoodie. He is an immigrant. He has a foreign sounding name, Lassana Bathily. He is Muslim. 

And he is a hero of France and of the Jewish people. 

He put his own life at risk to save the lives of Jewish customers in the Hyper Cacher market by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. He told them to stay calm, turned off the refrigeration, and locked the door behind him before he went up a freight elevator and out to the police...who immediately handcuffed him and treated him like a terrorist. 

Thank G-d, they listened to him anyway. Still, they kept him cuffed for about an hour and a half. 


I knew what Charlie Hebdo was before the massacre last week. Over the years, I'd seen their work, and it was not nice. It was pretty vile. They were equal opportunity offenders. Yeah, some of the stuff was antisemitic, anti-American, anti- whatever. And grotesque. And not all that funny. Their brand of humor was (in my humble Pollyannaish opinion) gross, disgusting, and, well, really vile. But never did I think they should be shut down. 

On the backs of the peasants
Laval's capitulation

This kind of cartooning is so rooted in French social tradition. There are so many seriously subversive cartoons from the moment the printing press was in common use that one cannot really come up with a period of time when political cartooning was not being published in France. Even during the Nazi occupation of Paris cartooning did not stop; it just went underground. 

There is no requirement to like this stuff. And as Americans, quite frankly, we don't even get to have an opinion about what France's cultural/social policy should be in regard to what constitutes a free press. We don't get to tell them how to censor or restrict what comes forth from the pen of a French toon-guy. 

What we do get to do is be enraged that radical jihadists have fire bombed Charlie Hebdo offices in the past, and now have murdered members of their staff. This is the moment when we have to decide what freedom of speech really means in our own society. This is when we figure out what constitutes freedom of expression. 

I can loathe was comes out of the mouths of Faux News guys but they get to report the news with their own spin for people who are unable to discriminate between news and news with an agenda. Nobody says I have to agree with Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh....and that means they get to have their opinions heard on their shows no matter how vile I think either of them can be. I will defend to the death their right to be assholes if they so choose. 

So many of us cut our satirical teeth on Mad Magazine. I first started filching them from my brother, and then I just bought my own. Ziggy and I were known to read Mad while browsing in Barnes and Noble. And when the kids were old enough, we introduced them to Mad as required reading....and we would both read whatever copies came into the house. Spy vs Spy, the Lighter Side of..., the movie parodies, the fold-in-back covers...we loved them all. Ever-so-slightly subversive, furtively I still will thumb a copy when I see it on the rack. Mad is an equal opportunity offender, even if it is not nearly as vicious as the Charlie Hebdo, and it does garner its share of criticism. It's an American rite of passage. 

On CBS's Sunday Morning program, John Ficarra, editor of Mad, spoke eloquently about the right to create satire. Take a moment to read... or to listen... to what he had to say. It's not about liking whatever is published; it's about understanding the right to a free press. As he said,
The worst that could happen to us was that we would get a stern letter from their lawyers -- we live for those.
Now, they all have to worry about wearing targets on their backs. 

I may be just a small time blogger, but

©2015-Steven G. Artley - Artley Toons Online

Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls' tip o'the week

“The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens. To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.
If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. 
But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France.
The French Republic will be judged a failure”


  1. Nous les gens sommes Charlie

  2. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for your comments about Mad Magazine because your blog provided a good example of the place of satire in a free country. Lorraine Hertz

  3. As always, 100% right on