It’s been awhile.
I have things to say, but I’m not sure where to start. I’m still processing.
I hesitated writing anything at all, because, well, quite a few weeks have passed since Paris. But as an American expat in France, I feel as though I need to write about Paris.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who sent positive vibes, prayers, and messages of concern via social media and texting. I was safe in London the Friday of the attacks, no where near Paris and not even in the country of France. Thankfully, everyone I know in Paris was unharmed, although unfortunately not the same can be said for friends of friends. Thank you for keeping the victims and their families in your thoughts.
Secondly, thank you for your solidarity and support for my adopted country–my home, France. Whether it was by changing your profile picture on Facebook, praying, educating yourself on the Syrian refugee crisis, or admiring the various monuments sporting blue, white, and red lights around the globe (my dad sent me this photo of Milwaukee).
Milwaukee, WI, USA
If you are in France, thank you for showing your solidarity via placing lit candles on your windowsills or displaying the French flag outside of your home or business.
With the (awful) attacks on the (awful) satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo back in January, France isn’t new to terrorism. Being American, I also can’t say it was my first time ever experiencing a terrorist attack.
I was 11 years old when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. I remember the day quite clearly, but my memories and points of view are from those of a child. I remember feeling scared and sad because everyone else was scared and sad. That was the appropriate reaction to have.
Fast forward 14 years, to the day after the Paris attacks. Just as I did with Charlie Hebdo, I felt numb and I felt sad. It didn’t feel real. I didn’t really know what to say, or do.
But, the day after the attacks, I woke up in the outskirts of London. I took a shower, put on my shoes, and spent the day drinking in a pub with my best friends. I smiled. I laughed. I had a damn good day. Does that make me a bad person?
The following Monday, I wasn’t sure how to approach my colleagues or students, almost all of whom are adults at the university level. What is my role as a teacher when something like this happens, especially with these students? How do I talk about it? Am I supposed to talk about it? Should I ask them if they want to talk about it?
However, many students didn’t seem to want to talk about it. The entire school participated in a nationwide minute of silence at midday, but otherwise, the rest of the week continued as normal. Today, there are many more security precautions all around France– more cops, more bag checks, and tighter security in shopping malls, train stations, stores, etc. But otherwise, people are still living their day-to-day lives– we have no choice.
I don’t want this post to feel insensitive. But I truly believe that one of the most important messages to take away from all of the recent events is that life goes on. It has to. We cannot stop living our lives, and we cannot always be living our lives in fear. ISIS wants people to feel scared. The government wants people to feel scared. The United States recently put a travel alert on the entire WORLD. (And, please, folks, do NOT cancel your travel plans because of terrorism.) The United States is one of the most dangerous places in the world if you look at gun statistics.
But I must admit: a few weeks after the attacks, I DO feel sad; and I DO scared. But, I’m not scared of terrorism, or Muslims, or Syrian refugees.
I’m scared, saddened, and angry at my own government, and of my own fellow American citizens.
I’m scared, saddened, and angry at the sweeping, xenophobic generalizations about Islam and Muslim people that are spoken by news anchors, journalists, politicians, and people on my Facebook newsfeed. Islam is a peaceful religion, with many of the same common roots and beliefs as Christianity. My friends are Muslim. My students are Muslim. My colleagues are Muslim. The violent, disgusting acts of a few individuals should NEVER be used to generalize an entire group (see Institutionalized Racism). The Westboro Baptist Church does not define or represent the majority of Christians or the Christian faith as a whole. When a white person (and especially a white man) does something awful, such as shoot up an elementary school, or a movie theatre, or a sorority house, the entire white race as a whole is not labeled, profiled, or seen as terrorists (see White Privilege).
I’m scared, saddened, and angry at the inaccurate, uneducated, and racist views and opinions about the Syrian refugees and the refugee crisis. Refugees are fleeing their countries due to war, unstableness, and dictatorship. They are fleeing exactly the kinds of people who commit these terrorist attacks in Paris. They are people who need our help, and not our racist xenophobic bullshit. Remember that time the United States turned away 900 European Jewish refugees in 1939? Do you remember what happened to millions of Jews in Europe between 1939 and 1945? Let’s not have history repeat itself.
I’m scared, saddened, and angry at my state, and my governor, and my fellow Wisconsinites, for (illegally, mind you) stating that they will not be accepting Syrian refugees. In a state whose motto is, “Forward,” this is a very backwards way of thinking. I’m embarrassed.
So there you have it. In the midst of the terrible crisis, innocent people are suffering due to the acts of a few.
France has come back as strong as ever. The French people are united. And France is gearing up to take in 13,000 Syrian refugees.
But the world as a whole needs to do better. But we need to stay united and support everyone–all of us.
On est tous français.