Paris and my two weeks of silence

You might be wondering why I haven’t posted anything in two weeks. Nothing particularly tragic happened in my life to justify that absence, but something of the sort did happen to other people, and it affected me more than I thought it would. I couldn’t write before and, to be honest, I don’t feel that I can now. But, ok. Deep breath. Let’s start at the beginning: what happened in Paris on that traumatizing Friday (November 13, 2015) left a deep impression in me.

For the first minutes, it didn’t (cause an impression, I mean). I was in a party when I heard about it. A shocked girl by my side commented, as in a daze: “Paris has just suffered an attack, maybe a terrorist one. It is rumored that 42 people have died” (later the number would climb to 129). My first thought was: “Well, it’s sad, but a lot more people die every day in attacks of the same sort in other parts of the world.” Then she added: “Hollande has declared state of emergency. The military are patrolling the streets.”

It was the war innuendo that gave me the jolt. I hadn’t registered the word “terrorist” until that moment, but “military” brought a kind of alertness to my mind that had me stopping everything else I was doing. I looked around, saw everybody laughing and enjoying themselves, as they were supposed to, oblivious to the tragedy, and thought: “How can there be such celebration happening here and such sadness happening elsewhere?”

I am not naïve. I know that as we speak, someone is laughing and someone is suffering. Gaining and losing. Thriving and breaking down. More than someone, even. But it’s easy to say something like this and forget about it. Or not realize the real truth of it. There, in a room full of people having fun, with the very real notion that a lot of lives were being traumatized with such unexpected violence just two hours away by train from me, I felt a squeeze in my heart, a kind of pain and dullness that kept me silent about the event and unable to write anything about it – or about anything else.

The next Monday (September 16) there was a minute of silence throughout Europe. I watched on television. All the leaders and a lot of people stopped everything to honor those who had been so dismissively killed. I couldn’t be silent, though. I cried. I had been silent the whole weekend, and now I spent my minute  of silence crying.

I have no acquaintances living in the French capital, and when I see the bigger picture, I get slightly baffled because terrorist attacks have been happening, like I said, in so many places, and nowhere else is the public indignation so great. What about Syria? What about Turkey? What about, I don’t know, Egypt?

I suppose it affected me as it has because it was so close to me. You don’t relate to the tragedy when it’s so far away, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Empathy works when you are –or feel– close to it. And Paris is close to everyone’s heart. Besides, if you follow my blog, you know that I’ve been to Paris more than once, and this adds to the hurt. If you know the place, then it’s not some distant unknown land they’re talking about.

Two things became clear these past few days. The first one is that, yes, Paris gets to receive more attention than other places. Maybe because they are supposed to be safe from this kinds of threats. Or perhaps because it is one of the most important cities in this side of the world. Whatever the reason is, we all have to accept that yes, this was a big deal, and will continue to be for the next days, possibly weeks.

The second thing I realized is that this type of situation reverberates in people in one of three ways: they will either react with love, with hate or with indifference. Several people that I know heard about the tragedy and decided to assume that every Islamic person is evil. Which is hard for me, because even though I am not Islamic, I respect who is. It’s a disappointment to see someone reject another because they don’t believe in the same thing, or because they judge the entire religion based on a few people’s behavior.

Hate is born out of fear, most of the time. It’s the consequence of victimization, because it is easier to judge and blame than to understand. It’s the precursor and the perpetrator of violence, of hurt – of war. Hate is the motive for why the attacks in Paris happened.

There’s indifference too. You hear about the tragedy and you just don’t care. Which, considering, is fairly normal. Like I said, tragedies in the Middle East are sad, but hardly make me go two weeks without writing anything. Is not that I’m ok with it. It’s just that it’s not part of my reality, not really, so it doesn’t affect me that much. It should, of course, but then again, a lot of things should happen and don’t. I’m sorry for this. The Paris attacks changed that in me too: I can’t be so indifferent to the attacks in Syria and Turkey and everywhere else now, having been so close to one right here in the heart of Europe, and this is another source o constant sadness.

This will sound very cliche, but here it goes: I believe that love is the answer here. Not towards the terrorists, of course not, but toward ourselves and those next to us who are suffering – including those who are part of another religion or ethnicity. Love is the resilience that will heal you; the hope that will give you strength; the courage that will help you understand; the empathy that will allow you to forgive; and the power that will make you thrive, despite the fear and the threat. Love is the force that will motivate you to search for the answers on how to create a better world. That’s how you win the war.

I am not indifferent anymore and I am not hateful. I can write again, and I can express myself, and I can return to this blog and make my best to make sure I write constructive things and maybe, just maybe, I help you by transmitting a message that you need to receive. That’s what’s important.

I am back, guys. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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