Friends describe Jean Cabut, 77, as a man who tried to laugh as much as possible. An interviewer once asked the esteemed French cartoonist if laughter and drawing could bring him through the economic crisis of the press. (source)
His answer is haunting.
“I try. You can try, but sometimes there are delicate subjects. Sometimes laughter hurts, but humor and mockery are our only weapons.” (source)
Unfortunately, for his fellow French citizens and the civilized world at-large, there has been very few opportunities to laugh since Cabut and 11 other heroes of free expression were gunned down on Jan. 7 in the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo by religious fanatics. These particular extremists were upset over the satirical magazine’s publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Cabut, known as Cabu, was a hero for free expression throughout his professional life. He helped start Hara-Kiri, the predecessor to Charlie Hebdo, after serving in the military in Algeria. (source)
He drew an original cover for a 2006 edition of Charlie Hebdo that featured the 12 satirical cartoons of Mohammed first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. That edition, which featured Mohammed on the cover saying “it’s hard to be loved by jerks,” provoked a lawsuit from the Paris Grande Mosque and the Union of Organisations of France. When that lawsuit failed, Cabu’s cartoon added fuel to the fire, making the magazine a possible target for terrorists. (source)
Cabu expressed a sentiment many of us who champion free speech understand when describing the lawsuits and death threats.
“The rise of fundamentalism in any religion has changed things. Ending up in court to argue about freedom of speech is bearable. But what you can’t accept … is to be the object of death threats for a cartoon,” he said. (source)
To borrow from Cabu, humor and mockery are our only weapons to deal with tragedies such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And in true Charlie Hebdo fashion, the magazine’s first edition since the tragic events of Jan. 7 has a cartoon cover depicting Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign. (source)
We’re sure Cabu would approve.
Je Suis Jean Cabut. Je Suis Charlie.