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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Liliane Clever

JANUARY 7 WAS a very sad day for France. On that morning, the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo, a small, funny, silly, satirical magazine, left everyone of tears.

Reading Charlie Hebdo has been a rite of passage, since the 1960s, for many young people in France. In a way, it's like Mad -- but with bite and the feel and look of illicit, deep Underground publication. Both magazines share a similar demographic, young readers.
What a thrill it was to pore over the irreverent, somewhat childish cartoons and text. Often in bad taste. Always outrageous. When we were younger, it was all in great fun, at least for a while. Except for a few diehards, we readers eventually grew up and our Charlie Hebdo days were over.

But not completely. Once in a while, we'd sneak in an occasional issue for old time's sake -- and to support our old heroes. Sure, these talented, fearless cartoonists and journalists often acted like precocious, up-no-good kids who happen to own a printing press. But they were our kids, our printing press.

With complete equal opportunity, Charlie Hebdo goes after everyone and everything. The World with all its ills is its domain. Political parties and their pols and ideologues, bigotry and racism, religions and religious leaders, big money and big corporations, and much more, have been denounced, criticized, and caricatured. True to its beliefs, Charlie Hebdo has remained head-strong, always refusing to apologize and be intimidated. It has managed to survive law suits, death threats, arson, and several shutdowns.

Then there was January 7, 2015.

The attacks at Charlie Hebdo, at the kosher market, and on police shook France to its core. People mobilized and marched peacefully in very large numbers throughout the country in a beautified and rare moment of national unity.

The mood of the country has now changed All major, sensitive locations are under heavy police and army protection. President Francois Hollande's announced drastic security measures to root out terrorism. Shaken out of their usual contrary attitude, the French have found a renewed raison d'etre in 'les valeurs de la Republique.' Who can blame them?

The remain staff of Charlie Hebdo has rallied to produce an historic issue in response to the attack. People who have never read before the paper waited for hours in line to get a copy. On French television, a woman proudly displayed her copy to the camera and said she would keep it to pass on to her daughter.

Let's hope the right message will be passed along with it. And that in years to come the message will still have significance.

(Lilliane Clever, a longtime Philadelphia resident, is a native Parisian. She spends several weeks in France each year).