What the “je suis” hashtag means to me

Carrying on as normal.

You know that this isn’t a political blog and, if you follow me on Instagram and you’ve seen my rabbit pics, you’ll know that I’m not an intellectual.  I don’t usually blog about what’s happening in the News but I don’t think I can, today, write about poetry blogs or how to engage readers or even tell you how I’m getting on with my January resolution to write for an hour every day.  Although I am writing for an hour today and I have been true to my resolution so far this year and part of me is absolutely determined to carry on today and do exactly what I would have been doing even if 12 people hadn’t been shot dead in Paris yesterday.

“Je suis” hashtag.

The “je suis Charlie” “Charlie Hebdo” hashtags are everywhere and some people have criticised their use, saying that they don’t want to identify with what were, and are, offensive, some say racist, and blasphemous cartoons.  Let me be clear: I find the cartoons I have seen offensive – although I haven’t seen all of them because I do not seek out these kind of cartoons.  I’m pretty sure that the murdered staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo wouldn’t have minded me saying that. I wish that they were alive to tell me.

“Your cartoons offend me”.

But it is the “je suis” part of the hashtag which, I think, is important.  To me this represents the freedom to be who we want to be without cowering in fear that we will be shot down, literally or metaphorically, by judgement, criticism, ridicule or by an automatic rifle.  Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Hindus and anyone who is the target of this kind of satire has the right to say to Charlie Hebdo “Your cartoons offend me”.  They must also have the right to be free to choose to ignore, to not buy, to criticise and to argue against their publication, even as the offense continues.  They do not have the right to kill the offenders.  I find this offensive.  I also find the death penalty and wars offensive, by the way.  I am against these things.  Je suis contre ces choses.

Je suis catholique.

You will know, if you have read some of my poems, that I had a Catholic childhood.  What you may not know is that I am still a Catholic.  I lapsed during my twenties but after that, and to this day, I practise the religion I was born into.  I might not conform to your idea of what a Catholic is, and there is much in the Catholic Church, in its history, hierarchy and current situations, that is wrong and should be addressed, but, in spite of all these seeming contradictions, I identify as a Catholic, it’s part of who I am. C’est qui je suis.

Perhaps I have been too timid to write publically about my Catholicism because of a kind of fear – of criticism, ridicule, because of the kind of cartoons and jokes featured in Charlie Hebdo and often circulating on social media.  But today of all days, I do not want  to be timid but, instead, to say who I am.  I don’t want to justify it, explain it or even talk about it.  I just want you to know it about me.  You still have the right to criticise me and my religion, just as, I hope, the Charlie Hebdo magazine will, somehow, continue to do this. I will continue not to read it.

What happened yesterday has made me think about things I don’t normally think about.  It’s made me want to stop being afraid and to say who I am.

25 thoughts on “What the “je suis” hashtag means to me”

  1. Dear Josephine, I agree with your views about the tragedy in Paris yesterday, and it is a shocking escalation in terrorist violence creeping into Europe. I also feel great empathy towards the ‘Je suis Charlie’. However, I also grieve for the fact that a hundred people were killed or maimed in the capital of Yemen, Sanaa yesterday or that there was an explosion outside an NAACP office in Colorado and there was little in the way coverage of these atrocities. I realise that things closer to home affect us more deeply, I just think we should not forget the fact that many, if not the majority of people who are victims of terrorism today (that include journalists) are people in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc., i.e. Muslims and the fact that it is often a daily occurrence shouldn’t deter us from continue to cover such news. This is not in any way meant as a criticism of your insightful and heartfelt thoughts Josephine, because as I say, I agree with you and I’m really pleased you wrote them. Thank you very much. Best wishes, Peter

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peter, thanks for commenting. I am against killing and I’m for freedom of speech. You will know that from some of my poetry writing, I think, even if I haven’t expressly explained that in this post. When I say in this post “I am against wars,” for example, I am thinking of, among other wars, the unjust war in Iraq which the UK government sanctioned and which has escalated divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is hard to encompass all of the world’s wrongdoings in one post just as it is hard for me to comprehend them. You’re right, the killings in Paris do feel closer to home to me and that is why I have written about them. I don’t take your comments as a criticism but I’m thankful that you could, if you wanted to, criticise me without fearing that I wish you harm in any way. Anyway, thank you for stopping by. Best wishes and respect, J x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good for you Josephine. If yesterday can give you the courage to say who you really are, then you’ve created life from death. Lightness in the dark. I’m really glad your feeling bolder about embracing your Catholicism. It’s nice when something positive can come from something so negative like murder.


  3. Dear Josephine. I understand well how timidity can prevent us from speaking out and I admire the fact that you feel able to write frankly about your beliefs. Thank you and best wishes. Alison.


  4. Of course, since you wrote this post, more people have died, besides some staff members from Charlie Hebdo. Three policemen from different ethniticies and religions as well as three Jewish people. All French citizens. So, like you, I am much more than Charlie. In fact, although I read the magazine as a student, I haven’t shared the infamous hashtag, too sensational for me. Also to be frank, not so many people read the magazine, even back then. So four millions of Charlie is a little excessive. From sadness grews hope and I sincerely hope for France to seize the chance for a meaningful debate about race, religion, immigration, and education. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your blog that I discovered through the great blog of Anthony Wilson.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Evelyn, thank you for your thoughtful and hopeful comment. There will, as you say, be more debate of the things you mention and more poems and artwork added to that debate. I agree, Anthony Wilson’s blog is a wonder. Best wishes, Josephine.


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