Today, there are huge gatherings in Paris and throughout France - "rassemblement" (a strong word: a re-assembly, a re-gathering) to stand together, to re-affirm the core values of the Republic: yes, liberté, égalité, fraternité. Out to dinner with a friend and colleague last night, the conversation turned around the core value of a free press no matter what. The bottom line, my friend said: "If you don't like it, if it's gross or racist or awful, just don't look at it, walk away." Point: true, we don't have to consume and approve every image we see, we can turn the channel, click off the website, not buy the newspaper. Other point: once an image exists, it exists - it's in your mind, it does its work. At the bottom of all of this is the conceptualization of images: are they or are they not material to the events around them? I think that images can be put out of one's mind more easily for some than others. My friend's point also was: censor the images you don't like yourself, lest the government do it for you. Ah. I stopped looking at Charlie Hebdo images because, well, they're gross and racist, but also because they were starting to cloud the issue, starting to obscure the human beings in the greater tragedy of what was happening. Are the events of the past few days about images? about assimilation? about economics? Every field will have an answer, and it would actually be good if we all worked together to keep figuring it out. To keep using all of those rational powers of deduction so prized by the Enlightenment and the Republic which claims it.
In Brittany, people are gathering as well - they've been gathering, my friend there tells me. 500 people in a small town yesterday, and a long silence, and then la Marseillaise is sung and no one said to. A song of being embattled, a song now layered by its own history of having been sung at embattled moments in France's history. I think that this is one. I hope for the safety of everyone marching today, for the rassemblements to reaffirm human dignity, for a bit of peace. I keep listening to the statement made by Ahmed Merabet's brother - his beautiful remembrance gathers family to Republic, and Republic to ideals, and I want to follow that courage.