Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How I Came Up With "Jesus Charlie"

I wonder how many of you kids are old enough to remember the AIDS ribbon. It seems to have slipped away into history at some point, but in the early 90's, people started wearing red ribbons as a symbol of solidarity with victims of HIV/AIDS. I happened to know a guy at the time who was very active in HIV/AIDS activism, who for a period of time was somewhat notable for being one of the few people is his milieu who didn't wear a red ribbon on his lapel. (Actually, the ribbons were often pins in the form of red ribbons, like the pins in the form of the US flag.)

He said to me something like the following:

"I don't mind you wearing the ribbon. I don't mind these people wearing it --" We were in an office of an AIDS service organization at the time, and he waved his hand to indicate "these people," the others in the office -- "but, right or wrong, when I see the ribbon, all I can think about are the goddam hypocrites who wear it. Politicians who wear the ribbon to get the gay vote, and then do nothing in office to help us, or actually block funding for research. And those asshole rock stars -- I won't name names, but I've heard some stories that I think are true, about some millionaire celebrities who wear an AIDS ribbon and then don't give one cent to AIDS research or emergency support, or give less than they spend on wax for their fucking Lamborghinis. Those fucking parasites, making careers off of people suffering and dying.

"Maybe I'm completely wrong about this. Maybe a celebrity wearing a ribbon, even if that's the only thing they do, maybe they still help us a lot. Maybe a politician wearing the ribbon actually does us more good than he's able to personally undo. And for all I know there are 1000 people wearing the ribbon who really help in meaningful ways for every one of those assholes who wear it to get over or to make themselves feel like good people. Making I'm just inventing a problem that isn't really there, but I'm not going to wear the fucking ribbon."

He was a very charismatic and persuasive guy, and I suppose I had a case of hero-worship going on with him. Not long after that conversation, I stopped wearing the ribbon too. Right or wrong, I stopped. Some people asked me why I stopped, and I told them, and some said Okay, and some said Oh that asshole (the guy who got me to stop wearing the ribbon), that egotistical asshole, he's accusing OTHER people of using AIDS for their own good? He could give LESSONS on making a career out of other people's suffering, etc, etc. A lot of people love this guy, and a lot of people absolutely hate his guts, and say that he charms people in order to subjugate and use them. I love him. Maybe the h8ers are right, and he's got me bamboozled. I think they're wrong, but I'm not absolutely sure about anything. My views on life in general and what it all means are often very murky. All the more so when it comes to people's motives and the way they interact.

Fast-forward 23 years or so, to yesterday. I ran into somebody on Facebook who struck me as a bit pompous and self-righteous. (He's an atheist, naturally.) Rightly or wrongly, I was annoyed by him and felt little admiration for his style. I clicked onto his page, considering whether I ought to just block him and save myself the aggravation which might come from attempting to communicate with him -- and on his page I saw a picture of someone holding up a "JE SUIS CHARLIE" sign. But the picture was shot from such an angle that the "E" in "JE" was very close to the "S" in "SUIS," and the person holding the sign was covering up the "I" in "SUIS" with his or her finger, so at first glance it actually looked very much as if the sign read "JESUS CHARLIE." It probably helped that I was thinking that the self-righteous Facebook user might want to "come down off of his Cross," so to speak.

In addition to that, ever since I'd first started seeing the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs last week, I'd been thinking about the AIDS ribbon, and my charismatic controversial friend who never wore it. And I wondered how many of the people holding the signs had never heard of Charlie Hebdo before the shooting, and/or couldn't read a word of French, and/or had no idea what the magazine they were claiming to be was like or what it stood for. And I'd been thinking about the survivors at Charlie Hebdo, looking at all the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs, and I wondered whether they spotted anybody who they knew damn well didn't support them, and thought to themselves, Look at that asshole exploiting our misery...

And that's how I came up with "Who is this Jesus Charlie guy?" That, and also, I can read French, and I had read some pieces in Charlie Hebdo before the shooting, and I figured, if anybody could appreciate an edgy mockery of the "JE SUIS CHARLIE" signs, it just might be the survivors at the magazine, because they're all about humor that makes you wince and exclaim, "Oh no, that's wrong!" at the same time that you laugh so hard that it physically hurts. Not entirely unlike Seth MacFarlane's work. If any of the survivors ever happen to hear about my little joke, and it offends or hurts them, then I sincerely apologize. I meant the joke as a tribute to them and their fallen co-workers, from one brazen loudmouth to some others. I don't feel the need to apologize to anybody else about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment