BOSTON (CBS) – “I was heartsick.”
Like so many other cartoonists around the world, a shaken Dan Wasserman answered the slaughter of his Paris brethren – at the drawing table.
“The idea that cartoonists were killed for what they draw was just shocking,” says the Boston Globe veteran of 30 years.
So as police overseas hunted the rifle-toting brothers suspected of murdering a dozen people for lampooning radical Islam in the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo – Wasserman returned fire with his pen.
“You can’t give people veto power over your thinking and expression,” says Wasserman.
The result was Thursday’s cartoon defending free expression from the assault of Islamic fundamentalism with the normal tools of his trade – satire and ridicule – with a final scene that transforms an “ink” bottle into a “think” bottle.
“That’s the struggle,” says Wasserman. “And I don’t think there’s a lot of gray area there.”
Which is perhaps why his newspaper – the Globe – took the extraordinary step of topping their editorial page with it.
“Nobody asked me to go easy, soften it up, or remove the mention of the Prophet Muhammad,” he says. “None of that.”
But newspapers like the Globe and cartoonists worldwide certainly feel the shock waves from Paris – as a clear signal that Islamic militants are willing and able to strike specific targets that offend them.
The fear that comes with that is quite real — and Wasserman is quick to confess that he does not want to be shot dead in his cluttered office.
But you have to balance that against the fact that you think you’re doing something useful to stimulate debate,” he says.
Of course, cartooning and controversy are longtime bedfellows, because when you craft political and religious zingers for a living – you offend.
“The problem is that some people think when you offend them you’re oppressing them,” Wasserman says. “They can’t make that distinction.”
Still, Wasserman is vowing to go back to the drawing board — unbowed.
MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON