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In Memoriam Samuel Paty

From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, cartoons and the aftermath of the power they hold.


In the French equivalents of Junior High and High School, history, geography, and civics are taught under the same hours in the timetable by the same teachers. For historical reasons, they are known as history and geography teachers.

Samuel Paty was one of them.

So while I don’t know what he was like, I know about his discipline from other teachers I know better. The ones I had in Junior High and High School, of course. Fabrice Erre, too. But the first one in my mind has and always will be my own father (who is retired by now).

For instance, when Emmanuel Macron in his eulogy (Samuel Paty was honored with a national funeral, as well as the Légion d’Honneur in the academics section, and his son was made a ward of the state) told us his home was filled with books, I don’t know if they included comics, but I otherwise couldn’t help but think of my own childhood home, filled with all kinds of books. And among them, comics were not necessarily the least relevant ones for history and geography, even if that was not always to their credit: infamously, the various editions of Tintin au Congo are often used to illustrate the attitude from Europeans of the time towards colonization.

But we did not need that eulogy, or knowledge of the curriculum, to know that Samuel Paty knew the power of a cartoon. We do know that because, while I don’t want to get too much into the ongoing inquiry¹, a few days earlier he was sued by a parent who objected to Samuel Paty using Muhammad caricatures as an illustration of free speech as part of his civics class, and as a a result police had deposed Samuel Paty, who defended his use of the caricatures; not as part of a state mandate (the teachers wouldn’t stand for it, and shouldn’t), but as part of his academic freedom. In fact, while the wording is in dispute, we know he warned of the content and excused students who were unwilling to view it.

In the hours following the murder, it was thought to be a random terror attack. We know now it was anything but random.

As Emmanuel Macron said, we will keep discovering, we will keep inquiring, and we will keep fighting for freedom and reason. #JeSuisSamuel too.


As always, our thanks to FSFCPL for his thoughts. Take care of each other.

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¹ To give you an idea, the trial for the Charlie Hebdo and related terrorist murders of January 2015 has only recently opened and is still ongoing.

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