Sunday, November 15, 2015

#Porte Ouverte: the French Spirit Will Never be Conquered by Violence

French solidarity, generosity and courage is a miracle that leaves me in awe. Parisians tweeting #PorteOuverte with their address for people in need. Some were afraid. But mostly courage and defiance reigned.

People who had nowhere to go also used it. And their tweets got retweeted virally. Taxis switched off their meters. It was a massive surge of love, care, protectiveness and courage.

As somebody pointed out in a tweet, the kindness towards strangers even though they’d all been attacked by strangers is incredible. They could have given in to paranoia but they haven’t. They could have been cowed but they weren’t. They could have stayed indoors and their fear would have been completely understandable but they didn’t. I saw long lines of people waiting to give blood.

The French showed indomitable courage with the Resistance against Hitler and the Nazi Occupation. And they showed it after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. They’re showing it again. I saw a man sitting in his local cafe talking about the horror of the attacks, weeping with raw grief that was difficult to watch and that made me wish I could be there to try and comfort him.

He turned away from the camera. Amidst the tears he couldn't contain he said “We can’t let them succeed. We won’t.” It's easy to say that in the abstract. It's incredibly difficult to say when violence has blown up in your face and you're threatened with worse. 

Around the world people have been burning candles in their windows and sharing images and messages of support on social media. Public buildings have been lit up with colors of the French flag. Facebook created a tricolor filter for your images. Desmond Tutu sent a tweet that said "Hope is being able to see the light despite all of the darkness" with an image of Paris in darkness but the Eiffel Tower lit up. Hope and courage. #Pray for Paris, yes.

But I learned a lot from Paris, too, and I’m grateful to Parisians and the French in general for their open hearts, spiritedness, courage and refusal to be controlled and conquered by fear and violence. Liberté, égalité, fraternité