25 janvier 2015

To Be or Not to Be Charlie

http://chronicle.com/img/photos/biz/linguafranca-45.pngBy . In English, it forms possibly the shortest subject-verb-predicate sentence: I am X. But we cannot seem to agree on what it means. In my lifetime, the first phrase that rings out is John F. Kennedy’s, on the steps of the Rathaus Schöneberg: Ich bin ein Berliner! The second, echoing now from Paris across the Western hemisphere, is Je suis Charlie Hebdo. These are both rhetorical flourishes, obviously. But they also both nag at our sense of what it means to declare ourselves something—as opposed to halting, as Descartes did, at the simple declaration (Cogito ergo sum) of our existence. More...

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