TO THE PEOPLE OF PARIS AND FRANCE
This morning, the day after the heart breaking carnage that was visited upon your city, it’s difficult to think of sufficiently meaningful words of condolence and comfort. And I won’t try. My comfort would only make me feel better since absent my presence in the City of Light, I can’t reach out to you. Can’t console you personally. Can’t hug you.
We here in the U.S. at least understand your despair and pain, your anger and outrage, your shock. We know that horrible feeling of numbness that collectively settles down in the immediate aftermath of a devastating terrorist attack. We also know that in a day or two the pain, anger and shock is likely to turn to desires for revenge as it undoubtedly did after last January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks. It’s understandable. We’ve been there too. But it won’t make anything better. As you begin to pull the pieces of your collective lives together after the horror that has rained down upon all Parisians, just know that we are with you.
Paris is, and has been, my favorite city on the planet since my first visit in 1972 as I returned from my Peace Corps service in Africa. Back then I got a taste of what most of the world still calls “Parisian Arrogance” or “smugness and hauteur” that I encountered on that first visit. It’s cliché to point out the disdain heaped upon foreigners, particularly Americans, by waiters, retail store clerks, ticket sellers, that I encountered. Until, that is, using my limited, halting, and broken French, I was immediately able to piece the veil of Parisian (indeed, French) superiority and discovered that even my limited facility in the French language (so much more beautiful and so much more regular than English since the same combination of letters are always pronounced the same unlike English) allowed me to see and experience the warmth, sweetness and joyfulness that was lying just beneath the Parisian veil (Hermes, naturellement!)
But what happens now? Just as with 9-11 here in the U.S., I have a feeling that the Paris attacks will be a game changer. Following the attacks on New York and Washington in September of 2011, domestic security was markedly increased, the NSA beefed up its monitoring of our phone calls, keystrokes and e-mails, a gigantic new Federal Agency was created, the Department of Homeland Security, and we all know what happened at airports around the world. Of course, we bombed Afghanistan and later Iraq so some of the “game changing” actions were and are not exactly error free. My best guess though, is that the European Community will increase its material and military support for the wars in the Middle East with the aim of destroying ISIS and other terrorist organizations located there. Frankly, I think that this is probably a good thing. The U. S. hasn’t engaged in an effective overall strategy to defeat ISIS and other terrorists and the Paris attacks may change this as well. I suspect there will be a great deal more US/EU cooperation on this front. I also suspect that the relatively free passage of European nationals to and from the Middle East is going to be much tighter and maybe even between EU nations.
But who really knows. I don’t. One thing though, I can tell you that we Americans (at least those of us who know our own history) understand that France stood with us in our Revolutionary War and while relations between our two countries have hit rocky times now and again, all of us Americans stand with you now.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité!