Vive la France! Vive le monde!

I’ve got a few different posts in some stage of development at the moment — one in particular, I keep sitting down to type, but my thoughts just drift.

To Paris. I’m sure I’m not alone.

I’ve written about being a bit of a francophile. I’ve had a small, side obsession since I was in elementary school. France, its culture, and its diaspora have always been alluring to me, and I’ve long fantasized that “someday” I might get to visit. The art, the writing, the fashion, the history.

A man waves a French flag as several hundred people gather to observe a minute of silence in Lyon, to pay tribute to the victims of the series of deadly attacks in Paris. (Robert Pratta | Reuters)

A man waves a French flag as several hundred people gather to observe a minute of silence in Lyon, to pay tribute to the victims of the series of deadly attacks in Paris. (Robert Pratta | Reuters)

It’s easy to portray France, and Paris in particular, as fundamental to the development of modern western civilization. And of course France gave us the language and the funding to birth our nation. They were primary investors in the freedom we continue to enjoy today — liberté

But it’s not just that the attack was on civilians in the heart of our oldest ally, as President Barack Obama said. It’s more insidious than that.

The attackers targeted busy, happy places where everyday people were out doing everyday, or at least, every-warm-Friday-fall-evening things. And they targeted so many young people, people who looked like my children. So many young people are dead, and so many others permanently scarred by the events that put those looks of horror and shock on their faces in all the pictures online.

Just like after Beirut, or September 11, or the Kenyan Mall attack, or any of the numerous other recent terrorist events, most human beings around the world share the shock, the grief, the horror, the feelings words can’t describe — égalité

As I followed the news in Paris, I couldn’t help but think about when my oldest was still in high school, and he had the good fortune to spend some time in Germany. Oh, did I worry too much, and among those crazy worries was him being near some random terrorist attack. I thought of all the parents of young people studying in Paris, and how frantic some of them must have been awaiting word from loved ones — and how grief-stricken one mom in California is today.

So many people of all ages out on a Friday night doing the things free people do in free nations all over the world — fraternité.

It’s an attack on the idea that going out to dinner, or going to a small concert, or attending a sporting event, or walking down the street are all safe things to do. The victims were all just people out having fun. Others have been shopping, or flying on planes or working. Normal things.

Terrorism is the enemy of normalcy, the enemy of liberté, égalité
et fraternité.

Terrorism is twice deadly. It reminds me of what my veteran friend used to tell me about the tactics our troops faced in Korea and Vietnam. He said the forces they were fighting understood that killing was one thing, but psychological damage was at least as desirable an outcome because of its long-term ripple effect.

I’m probably not alone in praying that world leaders are able to unite in an effort to eradicate terrorism. It’s a tall order, and it will take time and strategizing on a scale I can only vaguely imagine. Building nations on ideals like rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or liberté, égalité, et fraternité were pretty tall orders at the time, too.

These ideals must persevere.

Humanity, and I mean the word in both its meanings, must prevail.

Vive la France! Vive le monde!

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.