It’s a little bit ironic that yesterday, of all days, I got the phone call. The whole world was reeling from the sight of three hooded terrorists, screaming about Muhammed, their spattered gunfire echoing through the streets of Paris. How much nerve does it take to run into an office building and gun down a bunch of artists? I am sure I was not the only one visualizing a “bullseye” on the heads of those criminals while I watched that video.
I have a bit more of an insider perspective than most, being an artist myself and having worked with a bunch of animators and cartoonists. Cartoonists, for the most part, are just dorks. They are the most innocuous people you will find. Some of them come from horrific dysfunctional backgrounds, and so they draw happy pictures in order to simplify the world in their minds eye. They are rarely violent, often internalizing their anger, letting it come out on the page. They are often wistful and usually kind.
My heart aches for the families of these victims, who, as far as I can tell, have been nothing short of heroic in their response. I think it was the editor’s daughter who posted a photo of his empty desk; a poignant reminder of his simple occupation… “Armed” with pencils.
So yesterday, as I was enraged like the rest of the world over the murders of the Charlie Hebdo artists, the phone rang. It was my sister, Amanda.
“Hey girl!” she used her customary greeting. “I’ve got something to tell you. I’m going into the bedroom so they don’t overhear me.”
I could hear her thunking gait and then the door click as she closed it. “There now. Did you know that (R3) is threatening to file a lawsuit over our book?”
She was talking about THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, our story about how Amanda, who has Down syndrome, was abused by some of our family members and pulled into a guardianship dispute right after our dad’s death.
The irony of the timing, of course, was not lost on me.
“How do you know this?”
“She sent an email. She threatened to sue me, my guardian, and you.”
“Don’t worry. Our lawyer said she’s got nothing.”
“I thought so. But my guardian is very upset about it.”
“Tell him not to worry. We will handle it. Did you see your face on the front page of the newspaper?”
“YES!” she squealed.
“YOU’RE FAMOUS!” I roared.
She laughed and we shouted together about this wonderful experience of being co-authors, partners, and having our own book.
“We tell it like it is!” she added.
“Yes we do! And hopefully it will help someone else.”
“I hope so, too,” she said.
After our talk, I gave my attorney a heads-up about the lawsuit threats. We know there is no case.
I was irritated, though not surprised, that Amanda is having to go through this after all she has already endured. Terrorism, I realized, comes in many forms. The narcissistic need for control surpasses all rational thought and will usurp an otherwise peaceful existence. The answer, of course, is in changing nothing. Stay the course. Keep writing, or drawing, or whatever it is you do. Film is forever. Pictures are forever. Stories are forever.
If you don’t want to be remembered as a jerk, then don’t be one. Terrorism will be exposed for what it is, even when the victims are artists, or animals or people with disabilities. Expression is life. As Amanda said, “We tell it like it is.”