For a number of reasons, the death of Ahmed Merabet should provide a way to understand Wednesday's horrific shooting in Paris. Merabet, one of the two policemen shot and killed in Charlie Hebdo massacre, was a French Muslim man who died defending the laws that allow satirists to mock his religion.
It's particularly surreal then that the footage of Wednesday's carnage involved the terrorists approaching Merabet and executing him as he sat wounded on a sidewalk in the 11th arrondissement, begging for his life. Following the attack, many of the cartoons drawn or tributes delivered to the victims focused either on the journalists or the greater ideal of free expression. This leaves the story of Merabet (and fellow officer Franck Brinsolaro) as a footnote.
There may be more to this than just a predictable oversight; the seeming inconsequence of Merabet's identity speaks to a growing divide within France itself, a divide that Merabet's death symbolizes.
La Grande Nation famously cherishes itself, hems and haws about the status of its language, and closely safeguards its culture in ways that lend themselves to caricature. An overwhelming majority of French citizens continue to view globalization as not only a bad thing, but a particularly bad thing for France. Most saliently, in France, being French is widely viewed and taught to be the pièce de résistance of one's personal identity.