Qui est Charlie Hebdo, exactement?

Danger, Smile!!!  photo by author
Danger, Smile!!! photo by author

The Charlie Hebdo Affair

Even though it’s been several weeks since the horrific killing at the weekly newspaper office and the kosher grocery store in Paris, the fictional character of Charlie Hebdo is still making headlines around the world. The main reason for Charlie Hebdo remaining in the news is that street demonstrations in many parts of the world are still erupting, especially in nations with large Muslim populations. For the most part the mass protests have been peaceful, but on occasion violence and even deaths have resulted from the public actions.  Even when these demonstrations and acts of violence have come to pass, the name of Charlie Hebdo will be one that is not soon forgotten.

Not So French

When I first heard the news about the attack on the newspaper offices, my first reaction was where did this name come from. Part of my surprise comes from the fact that I have traveled in France and Quebec, and even though my comprehension of the language is not very good, I knew enough to surmise that this is not a common French expression. Charles DeGaulle, now that is French, but Charlie Hebdo, who in the hell is he????

News Flashes Leave Unanswered Questions

Unfortunately, this news story did not end with the dozen people killed at the magazine office. Sadly to say, a couple of days later another killing spree occurred at a Paris Kosher store that left five more people dead. Only after the assailants were killed and the loss of life came to a halt, were we able to step back and take a look at why the activities of the satirical publication were taken with such hatred and outrage. It was also at this time that the meaning of the words were first discussed in any detail.


Good Ole Charlie Brown

As it turns out the Charlie in Charlie Hebdo comes from the American comic strip called Peanuts, where the main character is an ageless middle-grader, named Charlie Brown. So popular is this cartoon that it continues to appear in many daily newspapers, even though its creator, Charles Schultz, has passed on to that great cartooning cloud in the sky. Though I am proud that a major French publication would name their weekly rag on a popular American “funny”, it is beyond me to figure out how Charlie Hebdo became so ghastly humorous.

And Then There Is This Word Hebdo

A t first glance hebdo looks like a Spanish word, but on further examination, the Greek-rooted word, (hebdomos in Greek) is an archaic reference to the number “7”. In this context, hebdo becomes a publication that is put out every seven days or once a week……And it is also a satirical effort that honors Charles Schultz, Peanuts and Charlie Brown.

Know Thy Enemy   or Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo

As far as I am concerned, all of this just does not add up. The satire put forth by Charlie Hebdo is so far removed from the comic strip that it would be laughable, if it had not lead to the death of so many people. Over the ages Europe, including France has been party to invasions from the Islamic world. The siege of Vienna in the 1600s and the Moorish influence in Spain are the two such events that come to mind, though I now understand that there are other similar acts in European history.

Given these historical incidents, I would think that the French satirists would do better in their roasting and ridicule of non-European foreign entities. I have no idea how this story will end, but I cannot see how this conflict will not become more caustic in the near future.

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