Apparently I am unable to continue with any new writing or carry on promoting my first romance until I sit down and work out my thoughts following the attacks on Paris, which really rocked me.
I’ve been asking myself why, but the answer is pretty obvious. For all kinds of reasons this one feels personal. And not only because I was just there (in the areas attacked) this summer—for the third time in my life, or because it’s a favourite city (which it is), or because I have friends there, or because one of my novel’s characters is a Parisian. This one was personal because I could have been any one of those people out for a drink or an evening meal or seeing a band. I started reading the memorials of those killed and knew that any of them could have been a friend or colleague—from the music promoters and musicians to the design professionals and journalists to the urban farmer.
Nor is the attack on Paris only personal for me. For Parisians themselves, this was a direct attack. Outside of France, Paris has an international identity—not only a place we dream about but a city that many of us have friends, family, or colleagues calling home. Paris is a destination, a beacon across the globe—an international symbol of culture and romance. For all these reasons and more, Paris has a place in our hearts. And so while the other Isis attacks last week in Beirut and Baghdad are equally unforgivable and deserve the same attention and condemnation, the decision to attack Paris was a game-changer because if home is where the heart is, then this was an attack on home. And there is a high likelihood that there will be more.
My animal brain wants to draw a circle around the two suburban neighbourhoods of Paris and Brussels that foster such hateful radicalism and burn everyone inside. No doubt the assholes that committed these murders only used their reptilian brains. Why shouldn’t I?
Because I am not a reptile, and therefore (thankfully) I have the rest of my brain. I would rather seek to comprehend the situation and to respond in a humanitarian and compassionate way. I am still figuring out what that should be, and like everyone else still processing the attacks and their aftermath and the fear of what may come. But there are a few things I know:
One, Parisians are as fiery about their city as New Yorkers are about theirs—their individual responses will be brave, fierce, determined, and civilized. The French government (and their international allies) will crack down and very possibly go too far and the people of France will struggle vocally with their conscience until a balance is found.
Two, the true evil lies in those who search out the young, poor, and disenfranchised, and use them as human weapons—those who feed the self-doubts and raging hormones of uneducated youth (men and women) with promises of abstract rewards or threats of violence, and replace their energetic lust for life with the thrill of collective hate and a desire to deny others (as well as themselves) a life of joy, giving, sharing, community, love, comfort, compassion, happiness, fun, self-expression, social engagement, political engagement, creativity, productivity, and simply living to the fullest.
and Three, that the best revenge is to do all of those positive things loudly and fully and to be as supportive of the rights of others to do any and all of them as well—to reach out and be that fucking rainbow of hope that we are sometimes embarrassed to be.
The wrong reaction, and one that unfortunately is happening too frequently, is to set fire to a mosque or attack a woman for wearing her hijab. There is no positive outcome in responding to fear with fear.
The wrong response is to deny the millions of Syrians fleeing an unlivable situation, young children in hand, an opportunity to get back on their feet and for the first time in years be able to live without fear, support their own families, and take part in the life of a community. To blame a desperate people for what a handful of hateful criminals (most of whom were not from their country) perpetrated in their name is shortsighted and cruel.
My new heroes of course are Anonymous, who have declared a cyber war on Isis and have promised to attack the digital communication networks that Isis relies on so heavily to both function (financially and strategically) and to recruit new members. I have absolute faith that Anonymous hackers will get all up in their shit. Maybe “faith” isn’t the appropriate word to use here.
In the meantime I will continue to cringe when I think about Paris (something that will happen often, like when I sign my boyfriend’s birthday card—see above—or get back to putting together our Paris trip photo album), but I will also speak out against those who would respond to fear with fear, and I will live my life as fully and compassionately as I am able to.
The best revenge, as they say, is to live well.