Sunday, November 22, 2015

When would we know it's time to leave?

When would we know it's time to leave?

This was the question Jude posed to me when we were talking about moving to Paris.  It felt like consumption culture, politics, and the overall level of violence in America has gotten out of control.  The answer to her question was instrumental to our leaving to live One Last Great Dream overseas.

Having had a strange day trying to get to Madrid on 13 November, 2015 (not having our passports during our first trip to the airport and spending a lot of money to buy tickets for a later flight), and after coming back to our hotel room relaxed and ready for a nice sleep (after having enjoyed a full bottle of tempranillo) before visiting a museum the next day, it was quite shocking to see our paradise had for the second time in less than a year been shot and blown to pieces.  My first thought was to Jude's original question.

A week has passed and I feel the better question is what would it take to make us leave?  Yes, we love living here that much, but we don't want to be willfully ignorant about our decision to stay.  I feel it important to take a rational approach to evaluating our situation.  I don't want to respond in a purely emotional manner.  Fear is a very powerful feeling, after all.

To illustrate my thought processes I want to compare and contrast the American and European responses to similarly graphic violent tragedies.  By doing so we might be able to arrive at a well considered (and hopefully not temporary) decision.

Immediately after the Paris attacks France started a military campaign against ISIS in Syria.  It's not using (at this time) this as an excuse to attack a country nor organization that had nothing to do with the murders.

By contrast, after a short military intervention in Afghanistan where al qaeda and Osama bin Laden (the perpetrator of the events of 9/11) actually were, the then US President GWBush decided it was better to attack and occupy Iraq. This led directly to the creation of the group that carried out the attacks against France.

Even as the saftey of the people is being debated, France is continuing to open it's country to Syrian refugees.  America's response is a disappointing "no."  What is remarkable about this is that France recognizes that the Paris attackers were home-grown (they were Belgian in most cases) and were not Syrian refugees.  Why do many Americans (led by Republican politicians) not want to recognize this?  What are Americans really afraid of?

Heavy weapon were used in the Paris attacks.  Instead of ignoring the problem, the EU, with France leading the way, is working to enact stronger control of these kinds of weapons.  Small arms are already controlled.  While the real benefits of new controls may take some time to realize, this seems to me to be prudent concrete action.

By contrast, Americans are not afraid of mass shootings shootings, even as the number of dead is quite staggering.   It was recently reported that there were 994 mass shootings in 1004 days.  No serious effort is presently being made by US politicians to control the weapons used in these (ongoing) attacks.  It's unclear to me what, if anything, is being done about the on-going tragic violence in America.  So why would we want to go to a clearly unsafe place?

There are also large cultural differences between how the US and Europe responds to these kinds of tragedies.  For instance, after the horrible attacks of 9/11, then President GWBush told Americans to go out and shop.  He didn't want al qaeda to "win" by letting the economy collapse.

By contrast, the French media has brought on experts on trauma, psychology, and philosophy.  They talk with people about how to work with their emotions and fears.  They tell people where good resources can be found and where to get support.  They explore how best to help children feel safe.  The French are not going to let ISIS "win" by not enjoying life.

It's not over, yet.  No.  Not by a long shot.  The trauma in fact continues.  It's very disturbing to see Brussels locked down.  Emotionally we feel battered.  We sometimes feel like running away.

Rationally what would we rather have?  Isn't it better to have governments that tell the people the truth and actively work toward keeping citizens safe?  Or would it be better to live in America's dream world of continued violence and un-founded/mis-directed fears?  Asked this way an answer should be clear.  But there remains an very palpable underlying concern for our safety.

When my father got into the cab that took he and my brother to the Madrid airport the morning we said our goodbyes he said to me "come back."  I know he's very frightened for us, and it's hard not to feel the strong urge for something that might pass at this moment for a peaceful place.  This is an emotional response.   A rational response is one of caution, observation, listening, and action.  With perhaps a bit more cremant in our diet than is normally consumed (as coping medicine).

The answer the question of what would it take to drive us away seems at first to be larger than the present situation.  If nations were to throw themselves against each other (such as Russia invading Germany while on it's way to France) then we would be "out of here" right quick.  If the EU is unable to contain it's own (radicalized) citizens and if attacks continue, then we will need to re-evaluate where we live.

I just hope the month of March where we intend to spend our time in Lisbon isn't too far off.  I shudder to think we would have to reconsider our place in the world before then.  We're already overly tired and ready for a long stretch of life and living that might pass for "normal."

In the mean time, we will do as the Parisians are doing.  We'll try and go on with our lives as an act of political defiance against those who would do us harm.  I just hope we're not being brashly stupid.

Scenes of Mourning ~ Paris after the November 13, 2015 attacks

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