To the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.
To people who dream of headlines that don’t bleed.
I am not writing this to say Je Suis Charlie. I am not writing this to say, “I stand in solidarity with journalists.” I am not writing this to say I understand what it is like to feel unsafe because of something you wrote. Personally, I have never written a single thing as controversial and dangerous as the things those writers were publishing.
But I am a writer. And as such, I am responsible for paying attention to the world. By default, I am a reader. A reader who is tired of seeing massacre and terror and 12 killed at the top of page in the morning as they bite into their bagel with cream cheese.
We should write more love stories, but not enough love stories are being lived. Not enough kindness is being spread. We hold up pens as weapons because the world gives us material that calls for weaponry. I wish the world produced material that called for stories to be soft and headlines to be tearjerkers for the right reasons. I did an interview this week for a happy story. I was brought to tears by the purity and honesty and joy that I heard in quotes I can’t wait to publish. And I thought, “This is why I love writing. This is why I love journalism. For the stories that make people smile.”
I dream of good deeds so profound that they warrant top half of the fold placement. I dream of people reading truths that uplift, not shaking their heads in disbelief. Or worse– not reading because it disturbs their day too much to witness the pain of the rest of the world.
I know these are impossibilities, there will always be sad stories and hard stories and stories that make me cry. That is my number one weakness as a journalist. Accurate as hell on the facts side of things, but I have never been able to be entirely unfeeling. My soul cried this week because I am a writer and I feel responsible to write something about what happened. Murder in an office where people use pens to effect change. How to fully absorb the tragedy of writers being killed for writing?
This act of terror is an ironic one. Tragic and ironic. In the senseless murder of journalists, these terrorists have actually given the stories the journalists told more power. Because now the world is talking about Charlie Hebdo. Now the world is talking about creative freedom of expression. Now the world is up in pens, and fighting should stay on the page.
I challenge the world to see the wisdom of words as weapons. Why can’t we see that the smartest way to argue differences is with paper, not bullets? With explosions of ideas, not bombs? With informed discussions, not strategic invasions?
Argument is a necessity for progress.
Blood is a foolish tragedy.
Stories will always be more powerful than machine guns.