Monday, January 12, 2015

A few more words about the attack...

It was a terrible 50 hours here in Paris.

As I walked up to the street to do a bit of shopping I couldn't help but notice how dirty, filthy, and "down" the city felt.  My attitude toward things had been altered.  I suspect many folks were feeling similarly.

Charlie Hebdo ~ Witnessing

Without fully realizing what was unfolding around l'isle de France I visited the street where the Charlie Hebdo staff, an economist, an office cleaner, and two policemen were murdered.  I knew I was getting close when I saw all the TV vans with their satellite dishes pointed skyward.

Things were happening at a dizzying pace.  The Charlie Hebdo murderers were surrounded and held a hostage in a small town north-east of Paris.  The Montrouge police murderer had taken hostages in a store on the eastern edge of Paris.  The Trocadero had been cleared in response to a perceived threat.  Rumors of other situations around l'isle de France flew like troubled birds scattered to the winds.  I couldn't help but feel that this small part of the world had come un-hinged. 

Here are a few things that I've noticed and have stuck with me since the events of 7 January, 2015.

Charlie Hebdo ~ Rememberances

People stood and looked at the place where it happened.  They were quiet.  They were solemn.  They were respectful.  It was impossible to not be deeply moved.  Several policemen were standing in front of the Charlie Hebdo offices just down the street.

1.6million people spilled onto the streets of Paris on Sunday.  To give you and idea of just how large this was, there are 2.2million residents within the city borders.  Jude and I tried to attend, but every single metro train was packed so full there was no way we could squeeze our way on.  So we returned home and watched the gathering on TV.

Nearly everyone who was interviewed at the rally and march stressed the importance of citizenship first, and personal beliefs (religion) second.  I was impressed by how clearly articulate the French are in this regard.  The cortege lead by the family members of those killed in the attack was very difficult to watch.  These were the faces of people in incredible, disbelieving, it's too much to bear kind of pain.

Charlie Hebdo ~ Witnessing

It was reported on Telematin this morning that several Italian (not French) newspapers printed articles stating that the reaction of the Bush Administration was to blame.  They underscored the on-going effects of Bush policies toward Iraq, Muslims, and what the Americans did at Abu Ghraib in radicalizing people.

While standing at the memorial near the Charlie Hebdo offices I was deeply saddened by something that I thought I'd left behind.  In one of the TV tents not 50 feet from the huge mound of flowers and dedications stood Anderson Cooper and a Talking Head I did not know.  The Talking Head was nearly breathless in his delivery of "news".  He was passionately, heatedly telling the world the events of the day.

This, then, is how Americans are fed news.  I'd forgotten.  The drilling rat-tat-tat of words felt like it could knock me over.  The shaping of ideas delivered rat-tat-tat was having it's intended, or un-intended effect.  9/11.  ISIS.  Al Qeida. Muslim hords. Death.  Destruction.  The targeting of Western Civilization.  The Great Unknown - when will they attack again?  All having come to visit upon us all.  Once more.  Some of these fear-inducing ideas were spoken and others very clearly implied.  I listened for as long as I could handle it and shook my head as I left. 

Charlie Hebdo ~ Witnessing

Meanwhile, in a French TV tent nearby stood a Talking Head.  His delivery of the news of the events as they unfolded was calm and as solemn as the people who'd come to watch and pay their respect.  I'm left to wonder how reporting of the same events were so vastly different.

My father said that in America someone tried to explain the impact of the Charlie Hebdo murders by saying it'd be like having every late-night talk-show host in the US killed.  That's certainly one way of looking at it.  It's impossible to under-state the impact of these murders.

Are cartoonists and comedians are the only people allowed to speak Absolute Truth?  I hope not.

Charlie Hebdo ~ Witnessing


  1. Thanks for the 'boots on the ground' information! Absolutely incredible that so many people turned out to show their support. Too bad a certain "leader" couldn't be bothered to attend.

    1. Jude and I were just talking about the lack of American participation in the rally and march. I guess it's just fine when the whole world says "We are ALL American", eh?

      I may write another entry about how this is playing out. Israel and America. Gawds. They've really caused a stir here in France, and I should probably explain why.