I woke up early today thinking about the terrible events in Paris- thinking about both the terror and grief, but also the remarkable courage of the Parisians that took to the street and bravely held signs saying, “Not Afraid.” The heart of Paris will not be cleaved in two by this event nor any other.
I love Paris, though I have only had the good fortune to visit a few times. It is a city of light, of beauty, of fierce independence, and I wish I could say that because I lived there in my 20’s and studied at the Sorbonne, but I will have to leave that to my daughters. My conviction in Paris’s resilience and courage comes from another passion of mine- I am a history buff and particularly a reader of the history of war. Paris has seen A LOT of war, a lot of deprivation, a lot of cruelty. It has been devastated, starved, beaten, and brutalized on numerous occasions throughout history and has always recovered. Vibrantly. Fiercely. Courageously.
Whatever terrible, murderous, cowards are responsible for this- ISIL or otherwise, they should know that they will never, EVER break Paris. They may have inflicted a grievous, heartrendingly sad wound, but they did it to a city that has taken much, much worse and has come back better for it. Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. It’s not a casual motto- it is a deep and meaningful identity. It is in France’s DNA and cannot be taken from it.
My heart is weeping for Paris and for the innocent lives shattered and ended by these cowardly attacks. I am thinking of the generation of young children, children who are close to the age of mine perhaps, whose lives will be forever imprinted with this terrible event- the fear, the horror, but I know they will also witness the bravery of their countrymen and see a city united to beat back terror and stand bravely against it.
Last evening, I was standing with someone who commented that they could understand the perspective of right-wing extremists (meaning: isolationist, nationalist, ant-immigrant, xenophobic) when something like this happens. They said, “I don’t condone it but I understand it.” To which I replied, “You are applying a simple answer to a complex problem.” As not just France, but the world grapples with how to combat this cowardly, vicious menace, we must remember to adhere to the ideals and beliefs that built these great cities, whether Paris, London or New York. We must embrace and use them as the foundation of our response, not just in times of peace, but in the dark times too.
Paris, you are a bright light of beauty and bravery in this world, but above all you are a city that embodies the humanity that defines us. You inspire the world. No terrorist attack will ever extinguish that.