The next day I had classes in the morning and then I had to hop on the bus to get home for a very brief trip so I could partake of my high school reunion. (Again, more about that later but it was a lot of fun.) But on the bus ride home I noticed two things--first, a lot of people were changing their profile picture on Facebook to add the tricouleur overlay. (Which I also wanted to do but was unable to manage via cell phone.) The other thing was that a lot of posts coming out about additional attacks that had happened in other locations by ISIS (i.e., Daesh), in Kenya and in Beirut. And it is obviously very important to point out this as well--for whatever reason the media didn't seem to push these stories as hard so I was unaware of them. That is absolutely worth discussing.
But there was also a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of pretty harsh statements (I saw one really offputting article
on HuffPo today) about how racist people must be if they cared more about Paris than about these other attacks. I don't really take it personally because I know that these things are meant as a response to a trend and not to me personally but for the record I will say--I speak French. I have extended French family. I have a lot of French ancestry on my mother's side, and I was raised to be proud of that. And perhaps most importantly and most obviously: I have been to Paris
. I daresay a decent number of Americans have. I have never been to Beirut, nor to Kenya. If I had
visited those place, the attacks would've been much more on my radar and I would've had a response to them. If somebody had attacked Tangiers or Casablanca, two cities where I visited--in Tangiers's case I've been there many, many times –– I would've been just as horrified. I think it's a little ridiculous to beancount and micromanage people's heartfelt reactions to tragedy. Yes, if this were a perfect world we would always respond the same way to tragedies near and tragedies far, but right now that's not the way the human heart works. We tend to respond to those tragedies which are closest to us or to which we have some kind of personal connection.
Again, along with everything else, I have visited Paris. It's a beautiful city--lots of history, gorgeous architecture, the world's most popular musical
takes place there. *Shrug* I feel that that accounts for the reaction on Saturday and I'm not sure there's anything to be gained by trying to shame people into reacting to something else. It honestly strikes me as a weird version of the Oppression Olympics. Just let people react honestly and stop trying to police their grief unless it's overtly problematic.
I was also disappointed to read an article today that included a long series of comments
about how stupid and silly people were to, say, add the tricouleur overlay to their FB profile pics. The way I saw it was--after 9-11, I was devastated, like everyone else in NYC, DC and the rest of the country. Shortly thereafter, people started forwarding the emails (remember our lives before social media?) showing how the rest of the world responded. I saw pictures of candlelight vigils from people all over Europe. And the Middle East--including Palestinians (that did quite a lot to me, after seeing that horrible video of Palestinians dancing around and handing out candy after hearing about 9-11). Country after country, culture after culture were standing up, saying we stand with you. We reject this. Nous sommes tous Americains. That mattered to me. That made me feel better. It comforted me, standing in my apartment, wailing to the ceiling, asking God how could you do this? What is the point of all that death? I wanted to send the same message back to our French friends. This is wrong. We stand with you. We are your friends.
What is the harm? If someone wants to post a picture of themselves in front of the Tour Eiffel, why is that a problem? If someone mis-translates a statement of solidarity, who cares? You know what they meant. I just don't get the need to sneer at any effort that isn't perfect.
Aujour'dhui, nous sommes tous francais. Nous sommes avec vous. Nous vous aimons. Nous sommes vos amis. Nous marchons avec vous. Nous surmonterons.