Nous sommes tous Parisiens maintenant.
This is how it feels. We are all Parisians now. Who doesn’t want to travel to Paris, to dine in one of its abundant sidewalk cafés, attend a cultural event like a concert or a sporting event like a soccer match? It’s the crown jewel of Europe, the City of Light. Paris, nous t’aimons, even if we haven’t been there. (I have, but only briefly and long ago. Still, I love you.) City of our hearts. City where people were doing what people might be doing in any city, anywhere.
And that is why it is so terrifying that so many people were murdered on a busy, happy Friday evening. Right or wrong, we easily identify with the victims of the massacre on November 13. If it can happen in Paris, it can happen anywhere. It can happen here. We mourn, and we are scared. Maybe we had settled into complacency a bit, fourteen years after September 11, but no more.
We are awake now.
If you have young children, you may be struggling with how to explain what they’ve heard from others or seen on the news. I want to share two items with you. The first is a dialogue, with subtitles, between a man and his very young son in Paris, as the father tries to calm the boy’s fears. Watch with tissues. The second is a link to an article in The Guardian that includes a brochure for children with a cartoon of a crying Eiffel Tower holding children’s hands. The English-language portion of the article alone offers helpful pointers, including questions to consider when talking to children about the attacks.
Finally, we face the question of the Syrian refugees. Since authorities found a Syrian passport at the site of one of the attacks, more than half of U.S. governors have called for the United States to halt the resettlement program for refugees from Syria into this country. My column explaining why this call runs counter to who we are as a people (and why it would be ineffective anyway) is in The Concord Monitor today. The first few paragraphs are below; click here to read the entire column.
My Turn: Refusing Syrian refugees is not who we are
On Monday, Gov. Maggie Hassan became the first (and at the time of this writing, the only) Democratic governor to join a long list of GOP governors in calling for a halt to the U.S. resettlement program for refugees from Syria. The governor’s opponent in the upcoming election for U.S. Senate, current Sen. Kelly Ayotte, agrees with this position.
Why these actions? Because a Syrian passport, believed to belong to one of the attackers, was found at the Bataclan Concert Hall following the terrorist slaughter in Paris on Nov. 13. Based on this evidence and a trace of the passport’s progress through Europe, one of the terrorists is believed to have slipped into France with the refugees now flooding into Europe in numbers not seen since World War II. (It is important to note, however, that authorities are also pursuing the credible alternate theory that the passport is a fake, planted by the terrorists to increase anger against Syrian refugees.)
America stands with France. We who felt our own towers crumble, saw the gash cut into the home of our own defenses, honored the heroes who sacrificed themselves to save others – we know the shock, the hurt, the anger, the determination. We know the fear. We will do what can and must be done to help France locate and punish any living perpetrators of this barbaric act, and we will take measures to protect our own country and citizens as well. These are not questions. They are the responsibilities of our leaders and rightful expectations of our citizens.
But we must not let the fear govern our actions. We are all afraid; there is no shame in admitting that. No one wants to believe that a Friday evening dinner out or attendance at a rock concert could end in blood and death, just as no one wants to imagine someone could fly his or her plane into a building. But how will we meet these fears? Will we examine the facts, respond to the threats, tighten security yet preserve our essential values? Or will we find the first group of “others” we can identify and shift responsibility onto their shoulders, an act that may feel like an accomplishment but serves only to turn us into oppressors, like those we claim to abhor?
(To read the rest of this column in today’s Concord Monitor, click here.)