Section: Opinion

French values should reach beyond national borders

By Marion Valentin

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.” – late Editor of Charlie Hebdo Stéphane Charbonnier.

A few days ago, I attended an informal round table about the recent events in Paris. After the meeting, a Kenyon student whose parents are French came to me and asked: “So, what did you think about the talk? Do you feel like ‘you are Charlie’?” I was a bit shaken by the meeting, and I have to confess that I did not have a clear “yes” or “no” in mind. When I heard Professor Guiney and Professor Dairon talking about the attack against Charlie Hebdo, reality suddenly hit me: there has been a terrorist attack in Paris. The distance from home added to the “Kenyon bubble” we all live in and prevented me from truly grasping the events. But when I sat in Pierce Lounge and listened to people putting facts into words, I realized what had happened.

In 1789, the French people fought for what has now become our motto: liberty, equality, fraternity. Today, we are not fighting for something new. We do not ask for another revolution. We are rather willing to preserve and defend the existing values of the French Republic. When I saw how quickly people went in the street and reacted on various social networks, I was proud. I am proud. The whole point of demonstrating is to show that if our ideals are threatened, French people cannot and will not stay silent. We want our voice to be heard.

However, I believe that the recent events should be a reminder that we are not invincible. As the country of human rights, it is our duty to step up against terrorism, and condemn it. Nonetheless, we should as well bear in mind that we are not the only victims of violent actions, and that other countries need help. We cannot pretend to be involved against terrorism and extremists if we close our eyes on events such as the massacres that recently occurred in Nigeria, for instance. If a nation can rise and protest after the killing of a dozen people, shouldn’t we react even more fiercely when thousands of innocents are murdered in another part of the world?

Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the opening question of this article, “Do you feel like ‘you are Charlie’?,” all I can think about is that we are not separate individuals facing these terrible events. We are standing together, united. So to whoever wants to know if I am Charlie ­— I will answer, no, I am not Charlie. We are.

Marion Valentin ’15 is a visiting student from la Sorbonne. Contact her at


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