Glendenning: We are all French |

Glendenning: We are all French

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times

We had a reader complain to us about one of our satirical cartoons a couple of months ago. The reader — well, actually, he’s one of our columnists — thought the cartoon was out of place in our newspaper.

“I thought cartoons are supposed to be simple vehicles for conveying in a clever fashion a newspaper’s editorial positions,” he quipped.

Satirical cartoons don’t please everyone, and they’re not supposed to. We’ve run cartoons poking fun at Democrats and others mocking Republicans. We’ve published cartoons that make light of climate change and others that ridiculed the pope. The particular cartoon he questioned just didn’t seem to have much of a point — it irked the columnist, I think, because he couldn’t figure out what its message was supposed to be. Point taken.

Sure, I view editorial cartoons as a vehicle for conveying our editorial position, but most often their purpose is to provoke intellectual thought in a humorous way.

But terrorism has no sense of humor, no respect for freedom — it has no soul.

The massacre in Paris on Wednesday of the journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine felt like a personal attack on journalists around the world. To commit mass murder in the name of God and against freedom of expression — that’s a personal hit on all of our freedoms, on all of humanity.

On Thursday morning, I got to work and read The New York Times and a few European newspapers. I came across a slideshow in The Telegraph of cartoons drawn in response to the attacks. Not only were they clever and thought-provoking, but they were bold and resolute. They were a unified middle finger pointed at terrorism — one that I can proudly stand behind.

One showed a masked terrorist standing with a large knife next to a sharpened pencil. It read, “Hmm, the more I cut off, the sharper it gets.”

Another showed a masked terrorist holding a smoking machine gun, looking back — and looking terrified — toward dozens of pens and pencils pointed at him, as if they were weapons.

Cartoonists’ pens and pencils are avenues for freedom. As journalists, our pens — or in today’s age, our computers — represent a fight not specifically against terrorism but against censorship and oppression. Pens serve as a check and balance not only on our government but on our society, and they serve as our collective voice for freedom of speech and for democracy.

As I looked at online photographs Thursday morning of French citizens standing together in solidarity against terrorism, holding pens up in the air, I cried. This time — just like on 9/11 — the terrorist attack felt personal. I feel grief for victims of all terrorist attacks, of course, but some just hit home more than others.

An editorial in the newspaper Le Monde in the days after 9/11 read, “We are all Americans.” I listened Thursday morning to the French journalist who penned that editorial, Sylvie Kauffmann, as she described on National Public Radio how the French felt as if they also had been attacked on 9/11.

Today, and for the foreseeable future, “Je suis Charlie,” — I am Charlie — and we are all French.

Lauren Glendenning is the editor of The Aspen Times. Email comments to