"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
Bertrand Hauger

PARIS — There's a nice trompe l'oeil mural on rue Nicolas Appert here in the 11th arrondissement. I once stood in front of it for a little while on my lunch break, trying to make sense of the artist's visual tricks.

Today, making sense of what happened on that street feels impossible: Twelve people, among them some of France's best cartoonists, with plenty of visual and rhetorical tricks of their own, were gunned down at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Just a three-minute walk from where I myself work with words and images to try to make our own, different kind of sense of the world.

I should confess from the start that I've never been a regular reader of Charlie Hebdo — hell, I don't even think I've ever bought it. All the same. Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski: Familiar names and faces, drawing styles that a bande dessinée lover like myself could instantly recognize and appreciate. And though I sometimes have found that Charlie Hebdo provokes just for provocation's sake, never has it been clearer that their right to do so is sacrosanct.

In their own idiosyncratic and immediate way, cartoonists can be considered the front line of free expression in France, le pays des Lumières. Today we see just how much was at stake, and at risk, from where they stood.

#CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/15O4YC2KWg

— Ruben L. Oppenheimer (@RLOppenheimer) January 7, 2015

The more straightforward media I work for, Worldcrunch — though produced in English — is based in Paris not just by chance. The French capital's cultural, ethnic and political melange, and its distance from the traditional Anglo-American viewpoints, makes it the perfect place to cover the world.

So this attack hits home. Not only because of its geographic proximity to our offices, but because it crosses a new line in the way that people are increasingly targeted for their ideas and for their work delivering information. When American war correspondent James Foley was killed and decapitated in Syria in August, it was horrible of course, yet somehow remote to those of us working in supposedly safer parts of the news business.

We don't know yet who carried out this morning's shooting. Regardless, it is scary to think that the ramifications of intolerance are such that they can wreak havoc in a quiet, nondescript Parisian street, and that people can be killed for making drawings on paper.

Can't sleep tonight, thoughts with my French cartooning colleagues, their families and loved ones #CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/LqIMRCHPgK

— David Pope (@davpope) January 7, 2015

I worry about the devastating effect on some people's opinion on Islam, tainted by a few extremists, and what it will mean for that singular way we've always managed to live together in Paris, whether you come from East Asia, East Africa ... or like me, a small town in eastern France.

I will go to the demonstration in Place de la République tonight. Not because caricaturing Muhammad makes me laugh. It doesn't. But I want to stand alongside people who also think that others have the right to do so. Also, I have always found it strangely comforting the way demonstrations can pack thousands of strangers close together in peace — and right now I could use just that kind of comfort.

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Society

Face In The Mirror: Dutch Hairdressers Trained To Recognize Domestic Violence

Early detection and accessible help are essential in the fight against domestic violence. Hairdressers in the Dutch province of North Brabant are now being trained to identify when their customers are facing abuse at home.

Hair Salon Rob Peetoom in Rotterdam

Daphne van Paassen

TILBURG — The three hairdressers in the bare training room of the hairdressing company John Beerens Hair Studio are absolutely sure: they have never seen signs of domestic violence among their customers in this city in the Netherlands. "Or is that naïve?"

When, a moment later, statistics appear on the screen — one in 20 adults deals with domestic violence, as well as one or two children per class — they realize: this happens so often, they must have victims in their chairs.

All three have been in the business for years and have a loyal clientele. Sometimes they have customers crying in the chair because of a divorce. According to Irma Geraerts, 45, who has her own salon in Reusel, a village in the North Brabant region, they're part-time psychologists. "A therapist whose hair I cut explained to me that we have an advantage because we touch people. We are literally close. The fact that we stand behind people and make eye contact via the mirror also helps."

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We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
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