November 27 2016:
It has been hard to know what to write. With everything that has happened and everyday new fears rising; I often am at a lose for words for the things that we are living in this moment. As a school teacher I’m trying to help my little ones understand how this all could be: how it is possible for me to tell them everyday to be accepting of eachother and then for them to hear that our city was attacted just for what we are. Some of them don’t sleep on Sunday nights anymore; their parents write to us telling us they are afraid that the terrosists will be at thier school on Monday. I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t know how to comfort them because I cannot tell them that we are entirely safe. I just let them express themselves when I can and I hope that the music and laughter reminds them that our world is a beautiful one and that we should do all we can to share that even with people who may not understand it.
It wasn’t for nothing that they chose this place. Paris in itself is a city of light, beauty, fashion, expression and gourmandise; the eleventh and tenth arrondissement even more so. My ever-loved quartier of Republique and the Canal St Martin is a haven for bright-eyed optimistic youths full of music, art and joie-de-vivre. This neighborhood is a cultural intersection of our city belonging not to the bobo, the bourgeoise, the Jewish, the Arab, or the African populations but a place that is truly shared and frequented by all Parisians. It is also a site for free speech, for rallying demonstrations, for people to speak thier minds and fight the injustices of our world. It is not by chance that they chose to strike us here.
Many of you were so outpouring with your support. Paris was also forced together; reminded by the fact that we are all united: even if we weren’t effected directly we all knew someone who at least knew someone who was there or worse.
But where “support” went askew is when people began to send words of “don’t worry we’ll get them”or “dirty terrorists we’ll nuke em all”… No I don’t think you understand. We don’t want that. The last thing this world needs is aggression towards these groups what we need is compassion and understanding for those that are around us.
The Monday after the attacks a man in my metro car took it upon himself to defend our city’s honor by trying to provoke a woman wearing a hajib in our car who was bringing two young boys to school. She spoke to the children in perfect (though midly-accented) French and yet the man insisted on telling her to go back to her country, to get out of his French neighborhood and other things that I wish I hadn’t heard. On my way home the same day I was behind to young men speaking in American; I could tell they were students at a local high school as they were dropping lingo about intéro, BAC, and DST. However on exiting the metro at TROCADERO (notably diverse and international neighborhood) an older woman took to exclaiming “quel accent. Oh quel accent” as her ears were bleeding and she would swoon ( and I assure you she was not of the swooning physicality) for hearing a foreign tongue on her cherished piss-sented metro platform. She persisted well after the youths had gone well-passed on a rant about foreigners that I very eagerly speed-walked away from.
How can we expect people to intergrate a culture if we are not kind enough to let them feel they belong? Have we learned nothing from the fact that these men were Europeans, with Belgian passports? These young men encountered enough prejudice, enough slander, enough hate in their everyday lives that ISIS seemed more welcoming.
Today there are hoards of refugees coming into new countries. These people are fleeing a war that they do not wish to be part of. And people are saying to turn them away because they are terrorists. I teach my students that love can save, that we are accountable for our actions towards others, and that no one is condemned to any fate. If we close our doors and turn our backs to refugees or people suffering from discrimination everyday, we are bound to create what we fear. Hate begats hate.
It is hard to love all of the time. People of every race can be proffetires: to take advantage of openess and use it as a weakness. I do solidly believe that we should gaurd ourselves but that does not mean that every person that you cross does not deserve human decensy and respect even if you feel they resemble what you feel is suspect. Even if they are the villains that you imagine them to be, cappable of acts of hate against western societites; you have an impact on them. I’m not saying that one smile to one person will keep them from the sort of madness that we were forced to witness the 13th of November but collectivly we can show people that our world can be an accepting and loving place.
Our only answer for hate is love and respect for eveyone around us. Paris does not need you to discriminate and threaten to vendicate us. We need you to do what is necessary to prevent these people’s numbers and strength from rising.It is not muslims who promote hate it is people who are hateful that use thier faith to jusitfy irrational actions. Embrase diversity, differences, and opinions that may not be your own. Honnor Paris and its fallen: show the world that we are united and that we do not anwser with hate as these killers have done.
We shall not be afraid. We shall not hate. We shall prevail. Paris est fort. Paris est uni.
Paris je t’aime.