Whenever I go to Paris, one of the first things I do — sometimes before I even leave Charles de Gaulle airport — is buy the latest copy of Charlie Hebdo.
There's nothing like it in the US, though National Lampoon once came close. The UK has Private Eye, but compared to Charlie Hebdo, that's like saying "Downton Abbey" and "The Sopranos" are both family dramas.
Charlie Hebdo takes no prisoners in its satire. A few snapshots: A cartoon of gay priests making a very erotic pilgrimage to Lourdes; a cover that shows bullets piercing a Koran and killing the Muslim holding it with the words "the Koran is crap;" an illustration captioned "Osama has returned," showing him fat and dressed up as Elvis Presley; or even the sacrosanct subject of Holocaust humor.
Charlie Hebdo takes it all on. There's something to insult everyone.
English speakers do have The Onion. We have Funny Times. And we now have great satirists plying their trade on social media.
What we don't have is an outlet that is so equally and humorously venomous to all parties, one you can still purchase at a newsstand and pass on to a friend who might also appreciate it. That's why I love Charlie Hebdo. It takes freedom of speech to its outer limits.
Until today, I didn't know that some of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo had their own bodyguards. That's how much the prospect of an attack concerned them. Until today, I did not realize cartooning was more than satire for the journalists at Charlie Hebdo.
Here's what they knew: You must plant a standard of free expression in the ground every day and not budge from it, even if it costs you your life.