I need to interrupt my planned post on “F*ck the Flashbacks,” to process what healing means in a week that has had so much violence and loss. So much hatred. So much shock. So much terror. Like every week in too many places on this earth. Places that do not have the privilege of random attacks in the name of religion being an anomaly.
No – this week was in France. Paris. A symbol of civilization, Western variety. We who are privileged close our eyes and ears so much of the time to the everyday assault on people who are just trying to live their lives, raise their children, survive another day where tribe attacks tribe, sect attacks sect, brother attacks brother. We who are privileged think we are safe. Until suddenly…we are not.
The attacks in Paris this week shook me to my core. I admit it. In part because it’s the unexpected. I felt the attack on free speech, freedom of expression, in the pit of my stomach. How could 12 people have died in a senseless act of rage and hatred because of some cartoons? I don’t feel like I’m “Charlie,” although I know I am a fervent (though not fanatical – I don’t use that word lightly any more) believer in these freedoms. I can’t feel like I’m “Ahmed,” because I’m not a Muslim protecting people who are attacking his God and being killed by religious zealots who believe they are avenging their mutual God.
It’s so damned complex.
It got more complicated yesterday, when a young woman police officer was gunned down while at a traffic stop by another religious zealot, in the name of his God.
Today, though, was the most complex day of the week for me. Today, Paris saw two hostage standoffs. One with the two killers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the two police officers, and others in the Charlie Hebdo offices. The other, in a kosher grocery store, where a number of Jews were going about their lives, readying themselves for Shabbat – for the peace and joy that it meant to them, not worrying that a fanatical man would barge in, kill four people, and hold 15 others hostage. That he would be tied to the brothers who had wreaked havoc in the lives of largely placid Parisians, trying to protect them by attacking Jews. I felt it as a Jew, among many other things.
My head is spinning. My heart is aching.
• Twelve lives shot down on Wednesday in and around the Charlie Hebdo offices.
• One life shot down on Thursday on the southern edge of Paris.
• Four lives shot down on Friday in the Vincennes kosher supermarket.
No – seven lives on Friday, because the killers were lives. Broken, hard-hearted, misdirected. I don’t know. It’s not for me to speculate. But they were lives. They were people. I can’t be hard-hearted and expect to heal. I can’t say their lives shouldn’t count, because they were the perpetrators and not the victims. Who am I to do that? I am not God. I am not my God. I am not their God. I am not anyone’s God. To me, a life is a life.
I have to mourn all that happened this week. I have to mourn the 37 Yemeni lives that were snuffed out on Wednesday, the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack, outside a police academy. No – 38, including the suicide bomber. I mourn those lives I know about, and those I don’t. Those lives that were taken without us hearing about them. Because the attacks weren’t in Europe. Or Canada. Or the U.S. Or Australia.
What will happen in France now? In Europe? Will the xenophobes win the day? Will hardline right-wing zealotry take over, with Marine le Pen stoking the flames of fear in France, along with other conservative zealots in Europe?
We need to be better than that. We need not to give into fear. We need to soften our hearts, not harden them. I don’t know how. But if we don’t, this world will become an even more dangerous powder keg.
Right now, at this very moment in time, we need caring, not conflagration. Healing, not hatred. Love, not loathing.
We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. We owe it to Ahmed the cop, to Clarissa Jean-Philippe, the rookie cop who had only been on the job for 15 days – who was unarmed at the time of her murder. We owe it to the cartoonists who were engaged in a time-honored practice of satire (however distasteful to many of us). We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. We owe it to whatever God we worship.
I can but sigh.