I first heard about the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists early in the morning while juggling my two kids at breakfast. My wife and I spoke in hushed tones and spelled out words in front of the kids. I want to keep this sort of awfulness from them as long as possible. Our oldest knows I’m a cartoonist, and suddenly, cartoonists getting killed was the top story on every news outlet.
While I have the luxury of living and working in the United States, where thankfully free speech is revered, the attacks in Paris definitely put the “what if?” in the back of my head.
No time for that, I had to contact my political cartoonist friends around the country to see if they had any news or knew any of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. It didn’t take long to hear stories of palling around with these guys or having beers with them, and now they were dead, targeted by terrorists for their cartoons.
Imagine your grandfather or an older uncle who can draw and make people laugh. They’re fun at parties and have an interesting, weird job. That describes many of the cartoonists I know, and seems to apply to the cartoonists killed at Charlie Hebdo. (Three of the cartoonists who were killed were over 70 years old.)
I don’t want to minimize the senseless killing of the other non-cartoonists, but it was the cartoonists who led the crazed gunmen to attack the Charlie Hebdo offices that day. They did it because of the cartoons.