On January 7, 2015, two men, brothers, murdered 12 people and injured 11 others at the Paris offices of “Charlie Hebdo,” a satirical newspaper. The two men were terrorists, obviously, but their affiliation isn’t relevant here. They died in a hail of bullets at the hands of French police.
What is important is that the attack against these talented, inspired people, whose only weapons to express themselves were their words and images, ignited an international movement. It was brief, but loud and clear – and heart-wrenching. The slogan, “Je suit Charlie,” became everyone’s expression of solitary with the fallen and injured. It put the violence of the two brothers in perspective to a far greater extent than the simple fact of their pathetic existence and demise.
Four days later, an estimated 2 million people rallied in Paris in support of Charlie Hebdo, of course, but also for the city of Paris. It was a city struggling to rise to its feet from the darkness of the events still giving many French and people around the world that lump in your throat the shows up the moment before tears. There were over 40 world leaders at that rally. No top Administration officials – not President Obama, Vice President Biden or Secretary Kerry – bothered to attend. None of them walked arm-in-arm with the other world leaders at the front of the march.
President Obama should have been there. If she could cry, the Statue of Liberty would have. He needed to be there for her and for the rest of us – and because the framers of our Constitutional right to freedom of speech were unable to attend.