"Je suis Charlie." I get that, I understand that, with millions of others, especially if it means, "I believe in freedom and unity and living without fear."
"Je ne suis pas Charlie." I understand those sentiments too, and where those people are coming from, who say that they don't agree with Charlie, or, that they do agree with Charlie, but that they were not "brave" enough to publish such satire. Or they did not want to risk the welfare of their colleagues' lives, and therefore felt not worthy to be known as "Charlies". I understand the defiance of Charlie Hebdo survivors and I understand those who disagree.
"Je suis Ahmed". I understand those who feel support and identify with the Muslim policeman who, in effect, it is said gave his life to defend the right of those who would mock his religion. I understand the concerns of the editors and journalists of Al Jazeera for example, in discussing how to deal with Charlie: "Is this (satire) free speech or abuse of free speech?"
And I understand the placards that say: "I am a Jew", "I am a cop", and "I am a Muslim; I am not a terrorist".
Michael Deacon wrote movingly in Monday's Daily Telegraph, about the peaceful "walk" that brought 3 plus millions to the streets in Paris and other cities around the world: "A rally can't prevent a society being attacked, but it can help hold it together, and console it, give it courage."
These sentiments have been countered by other views and accounts, referring to the hypocrisy of state leaders and politicians taking part in a securely guarded "photo op" on an isolated street, rather than a bold march of the people with the people, as it first appeared to be. Further, as they say, the egos of the leaders may well have jostled for front position. And there were leaders present whose regimes oppress human rights! Hypocrisy? The reply of President Hollande to all of this was: Everyone who wants to help us fight this plague is welcome.
I understand that. I understand the world's leaders presented a massive security problem; I understand the falsity of appearances. I understand a leader wanting to appear in front; I understand those less concerned to be at the back. I say here I understand; I do not say which is right and which is wrong. Conflict Resolution 101: I hear what you say.
I understand all of it, because Je suis Everyman. And to know I am everyman is to know that everything depends on where we stand, what we believe and how we perceive. And yet, essentiellement, nous sommes de la même; essentially, we are all the same.
Je suis Everyman because I understand, and know that we will ever differ; I understand, too, because I know firsthand these things: anger, divisiveness, hate, and revenge. I also understand and know: love, unity, brotherhood and the power of goodwill. I know the light and the dark, and we know in order to fix a broken world, we have to choose between the two. Every day, in every way, we choose.
The rapper, Common, gave voice to Everyman in his powerful acceptance speech as a composer upon receiving an award for the movie, Selma, at the Golden Globes Awards: "I am the caring white supporter...I am the unarmed black kid...I am the two fallen police officers...Selma, you have awakened my humanity". His words went viral.
The photo-op, the linked arms, the millions in the street walking in solidarity, the rebuilding after a tsunami, the determination and bravery whenever terrorists strike, the courage in face of evil; we can choose that image. That image gives hope. In the words of the Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon, the image on the front page said, "Look at us. Look at how many we are. Look how different, yet how unified, we are. Our enemies can strike us, but they shall not defeat us."
E pluribus Unum. Out of many, One.
The Constitution of UNESCO states: "That since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed...... and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind."
The moral solidarity of mankind is what walked the streets and filled the pages of the media this past week, in the face of terror and death. For good or bad, for light or dark, for better or worse, today I choose that hope, that image. Because we are the world. Je suis non seulement Charlie; Je suis Everyman.