I arrived in Paris yesterday, scheduled to give a series of lectures in philosophy. The lectures are in political philosophy, on how power distorts liberal democracy. I’ve been nervous about giving these lectures in Paris, the city in which a liberal democratic revolution toppled a system of power, monarchy, which seemed to those subject to it both permanent and inevitable.
My plane, scheduled to arrive to 8:30 a.m., was late. By the time my taxi made its way to my apartment in the 11th arrondissement, it was nearly noon. Cordons of police were blocking the streets, and the sound of sirens was everywhere. My taxi driver swore and took a side street to my destination. I ducked into a cafe next to my apartment, awaiting my keys. There I heard the startling news that we had driven past the scene of a terrorist attack, and that the target was Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper famed for ridiculing authority in all its incarnations. Among the 12 people killed were four of France’s most famous satirical cartoonists.
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