Three Extraordinary Words

Filed in Archive, Blog by on January 13, 2015 0 Comments

Charlie Hebdo cover

The sentence “Je suis Charlie” has been a powerful unifier in the wake of the terrorist attack against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7th. But the first edition of the magazine since the murder of 12 of its staff features another three-word sentence that is arguably even more powerful: “Tout est pardonné.” (All is forgiven.)

Of course there will be some who are determined to interpret the cartoon component as blasphemous. But the cartoon can also be interpreted as Charlie Hebdo hoping the majority of mainstream Moslems feel tearful about the violence committed in the name of their religion. After all, forgiveness is a central tenet of Islam.

I can imagine the magazine’s remaining editors, writers, illustrators and designers either openly weeping or with tears in their eyes as they supported each other around the computer used to draft this cover. There are many other responses they could have had – bitter and vengeful – but forgiveness had to be the best choice.

Their response reminds me of the scene in the 1982 biopic Gandhi when the great Mahatma is assassinated. After being shot, Gandhi looks his assassin in the eye and says, “I forgive you.” In the film the assassin instantly believes only a saint could give such a response to being shot, and realizes the grave mistake he has made.

Although I’m not suggesting Charlie Hebdo is a saintly publication – far from it – the staff’s choice shows forgiveness is not limited to those who hold religious beliefs. It is perhaps the most sanity-restoring and constructive ideal for any human to aspire to.

Félicitations to Charlie Hebdo for living this ideal after such horror.

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