Thursday, 19 November 2015

Terrible Love

They wanted to separate us. They have brought us together.
"We don't need to go into work if we're afraid because of the raid" came the message in our intern-WhatsApp-group. I had just woken up and was unclear what the others where talking about. What raid? Where? And why would I not go to work because of a raid? Huh? Turns out they were talking about the raid by police in Saint Denis yesterday, during which the cousin of the alleged mastermind behind Friday's attacks blew herself up and numerous others were apprehended or killed. 

Friday night I had met some friends near the Centre Pompidou for drinks and dinner, and just as we were deciding on pizza or thai food a message came through about there having been attacks at the Stade de France. I didn't even know really that a football game was happening, so I thought it might just be soccer violence. The others whipped out their phones as well and as the news began getting progressively worse and the sirens of police vans increased we all decided to head home. Once there, I spent the rest of the evening with the couple I am staying at, all glued to the TV and watching as the death toll went steadily up. Friends kept messaging if everything was ok, that they'd just heard the news. When the death toll reached 80 people and the siege in the Bataclan was still ongoing, I decided to go to bed, that this could only get worse.

Change. Love. 
The next morning I woke to dozens of messages and Facebook asking me if I was safe. It was strange to find out that we had been to one of the restaurants, Le Petit Cambodge, a few weeks ago because it features on a Buzzfeed list of places to eat at in Paris. Or that at 19 I had been to the Bataclan to see TV on the Radio, or that friends couldn't get home because the whole area had been cordoned off.

I packed my bag and walked to work, thinking that the thesis waits for no terrorists. The Marais, usually brimming on the weekends, was empty, the city deserted. Somehow, after unusually sunny November weeks winter had come in this night of terror. At a pedestrian crossing a siren could be heard approaching and for a split-second the man next to me and I looked at one another, a moment of dread in thinking "what has happened now?".

Fight hatred with this thing we call love. 
Even at work somehow I could get nothing done, sifting through report after report on what had happened. A friend was at the office as well, recounting how he'd been in the 11th and how they'd remained in a restaurant until the early hours of the morning, telling morbid joked to pass the time. People were posting #PrayForParis and changing their FB photo to the Tricolore whilst others were critiquing that the Beirut bombings had been ignored and that the whole attack was because of an extreme belief in one religion. On Instagram, "430 million interactions–that’s posts, likes and comments–were created in these first 24 hours, with people in more than 200 countries participating".

Saturday we were supposed to go to a concert, now cancelled, so we gathered at a friend's place, ate together and drank wine while discussing the events. Somehow after tragedy strikes one needs others to make sense of how this could happen, after 9/11, after Charlie Hebdo, after increases in security. Who was behind all of it? And what was the aim?

The Other is your friend.
Sunday marked the beginning of a certain defiance in the city of being told to remain indoors, of being afraid of when the next attack might come. The sun was shining and everyone was out, walking on the banks of the Seine, talking and laughing. For the past week, I have seen the same spirit in the roads of the city: people in cafés, people in restaurants; a father explaining during an interview to his young son that they might have guns but that we have flowers, and that flowers will always be stronger; graffiti stating that this event has brought us closer together; and an article by Andrew Street following the words of Vonnegut in stating "if we fight each other, we create fresh hells for ourselves. The enemy can only win if we do the fighting for them. We're a whole lot smarter than that. God damn it, we've got to be kind".

On Monday, the office had a general meeting to discuss the weekend's events and ask if anyone wanted to say anything. It was odd and awkward, thinking that anyone would want to talk about their feelings in front of 30 colleagues. Instead, people stood in office doors and huddled over lunch, explaining where they were on Friday and whether they knew of anyone who had gotten hurt. Some were saying that the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year felt markedly different, because one could easily say "That has nothing to do with us, that is not our fight". But now, it was an attack on society itself and the values it guards most closely. It was an attack on the freedom to go have a beer after work on Friday or see the prostitution exhibit at the Musée d'Orsay or enjoying a night of head-banging with your friends. This time everyone was affected because it was a terror that goes against our very way of life.

Perhaps because of this life goes on. People are opposing statements against this being "the fault of the refugees" or "the muslims" or other hateful thoughts that creep in and make you not see the other as human and equal and as having the same rights as you. People seem to be wanting to be kind, because despite the governments bombing ISIS and the media whipping itself into a frenzy, there is no way other than trying, at the very least, to be kind.

The silence of pain is at times stronger than the cry of hatred. 

No comments:

Post a Comment