I'm sure many in the Twin Cities who saw the words, "Je suis Charlie" emblazoned in bright white lights just below the top of Paris's Arc de Triomphe the night of the Charlie Hebdo massacre may have developed lumps in their throats, but obviously for very bittersweet reasons. For those unaware, the founders of the magazine Charlie Hebdo named the Charlie part of the magazine name after Charlie Brown, created, as the world knows, by Saint Paul. Minnesota, native Charles Schulz for his iconic comic strip, PEANUTS.
I have a feeling Mr. Schulz, had he still been alive, would have had mixed emotions about everything connected with the horrific massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff. One can only surmise he might have been glad the founders chose to acknowledge Charlie Brown, albeit for a magazine that juxtaposed the wholesomeness of Mr. Schulz's primary strip character with a lot that was less wholesome, but also, of course, aghast at the audacious attack on free speech and freedom of the press that resounded around the world with Charlie's name attached, sadly taking journalistic lives in the process.
I think it's sometimes good to reflect that occasionally, from humble beginnings, giant respected oak trees grow from the acorns planted by their fertile minds. Such, in my opinion, was (and is) the case for Charles Schulz and all his universally-beloved characters.
Although it's miniscule compared to last week's atrocities, my wife and I felt the sting of radicals when I was robbed in broad daylight on the Paris subway in the summer of 1996. We were staying at a hotel near La Madeleine, an impressive Catholic church in the Fifth Arrondissement. Around noon during one of the days of our stay, I suggested we visit The Louvre, just one subway (metro) stop away from our hotel. My wife had never been to The Louvre. I'd been there several times throughout the years and knew she would enjoy the experience. When we got into the subway car, because it was only one stop until we'd exit, I decided to stand holding a pole in the center of the car, but adjacent to the door. From out of nowhere, I felt someone grabbing my right ankle, laying on the subway car floor and pounding on my leg. He was dressed in white coveralls and obviously looking for a leg-wallet to steal. I looked at my wife on the other side of the car and she was being held in abeyance by another man also dressed in white coveralls. We were both distracted, to say the least, and everyone standing and seated just looked at what was happening, all with serious faces, but no one attempting to stop the insanity. When the buzzer sounded to signal the closing of the doors, the man holding my wife at bay ran across the car and got out, but the fellow who had been pounding my ankle just barely made it out through the closing doors, being pulled to the platform by yet another fellow in white coveralls. I thought, "What was that?", then, as the train began to move, I felt my right front pants pocket, where I always keep my wallet, and the pocket was empty. Obviously, the thieves' distraction worked. Luckily, I had also worn a tummy-wallet, in which I had stored my passport, driver's license, all my cash and a couple extra credit cards. The thieves only got away with other credit cards.
Needless to say, my wife and I got off at The Louvre stop and never went to The Louvre that day, but instead got on the next train back to our original stop and searched for the stolen wallet. Because of fear of bombs being placed in the subway stations then (and now) all the waste receptacle boxes had been sealed shut, thus we looked everywhere else...even looking down onto the tracks...but no wallet.
We went to the subway station kiosk and told the person in the booth what had happened. He said he was sorry and guided us to the U.S. Consulate, just two blocks away. During the seven hours it took to call the credit card companies (including also walking to the nearby American Express office to get a replacement card immediately), one of the ladies working at the Consulate told us the following: She was a French national but said she was so embarrassed by the fact that occurrences such as ours were happening in Paris at least a hundred times a day. I described those who had robbed us and she said they were North Africans, from Tunisia or Algeria, who actually attended schools teaching their students how to lift wallets without being discovered. She said they wore little bells on their wrists while in thievery school and if the bells rang while stealing a practice wallet, they would fail the test. Lovely (not).
Regardless, we continued on our trip the next day, away from Paris. When we returned to the U;S. a few days later, I was told only one of the credit cards stolen had been attempted to be used and immediately swallowed by the machine into which it was inserted by the thief.
Possible moral of this story, in my opinion: Unjustified violence and unspeakable occurrences perpetrated against the innocent have been going on for eons, regardless of country or century. The Charlie Hebdo maniacy was an ugly reminder, triggering the unpleasant personal memories above-described, but, stated by one who is of half-French descent, enveloped within a city that is still among the world's most special.
Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read these geezer thoughts, et, vraiment, je suis Charlie, aussi.