Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I am Juliette

In France, Wally/Waldo is called Charlie
Devastated, powerless and angry was how the recent events in Paris left me. Seen from the comfort and the distance of my island, they seemed incomprehensible. And strangely personal. I didn't know any of the victims personally, I had never read Charlie Hebdo or shopped in that particular supermarket. But I had grown up with the cartoons artist Cabu did on children's TV; I used to live in Paris; I am, whatever that means, French. And "we" don't do "that sort of thing". Except we did.

The shockwave this started (and, here, I am speaking for myself) is truly unprecedented and will resonate and keep shifting things for a long time to come. Devastated, powerless, angry... But also very worried and confused. What was it all about?

The solidarity march that took place in Dublin on 11 January was the first I ever attended on my own and the quietest one I ever joined. Being alone in a mass of 5,000 strong gives you time to think a bit.

Who and what did I go march for? For freedom of speech? In memory for the victims? Against the use of senseless violence as  a solution to anything? Did I march because I was Charlie? Jewish? A cop? Ahmed? And what about the others, all the others that die at the hands of that senseless violence and that we don't (want to) hear about so much?

The only satisfying answer I have is: all of the above. The best line I heard about the Paris march (which gathered a bit more than 5,000) was that it was "about living together". Instead of "Je suis Charlie", my sign should have read "I am human".

Now that that's established, what do I do? Do I turn on the 24-hour news channels, become super aware of all the evil in the world and make myself sick with worry and suspicion? Striking a balance between awareness and fear is not an easy thing.

So I suppose I'll do what I've always done. I'll read a good book and pass it on. Not just "any" good book, one that is, precisely, "about living together". In Paris, in Inchicore, on planet Earth.
It may not be much, but it's a start.

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