Friday, 15 July 2016

It's Just Another Day

The 14th of July is the Fête Nationale (National Day) in France. When we were living in Paris, it meant a day off from work, a magnificent parade two blocks away along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, a fly-over of old and new aircraft.  Later, a picnic along the Seine and then after dark, the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower.  We would gather around 9 PM to wait for the darkness - in Paris, the sun does not set in Summer until nearly 10.

Well, tonight one did not have to wait for the sun to disappear for the darkness to come. 

Darkness in France today came in the shape of a white box truck. It came in the form of people - young, old, families, small children - who had gathered on a somewhat cool summer evening in Nice along the French Riviera - having their lives cruelly extinguished by an evil man.  It appeared in an image of innocent people running in fear. 

It was a still photo of a doll next to a tiny, lifeless child under a blanket.

As of now, the French government are not really saying anything about just who loaded a truck with weapons - including grenades - and set out with murderous, evil intent.

Families went out tonight to celebrate the values of the French republic - famously, liberty, equality, and brotherhood.  They left their homes seeking a fun, relaxing evening. Maybe a glace from a vendor, to walk along the world-famous Promenade des Anglais.

The driver plainly had other plans.

So much for the "brotherhood" part. 

The French government are somewhat tight-lipped about just what happened, but to understand what is actually going on, one needs to look beyond what is said and pay attention to actions - President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have convened a terrorist crisis meeting at the Place Beauvau, seat of the French Minstry of the Interior, where domestic concerns are discussed.  Mr Valls had been the Minister of the Interior prior to his elevation to Prime Minister, and he has a history of tough talk and tough action against criminality.

This attack is the third horrific incident in France in the past 18 months. Social media - again - are trotting out bromides about 'praying for France' and how "love will conquer hate."

I am not so sure.

There is an old saw that it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and I suppose that there is some comfort in that.  But with each drip drip drip, it grows more and more difficult to pretend that the darkness gathering around us is not growing.  In frequency and profundity. 

A recent conversation I heard on the radio following the assassination of five police officers in Dallas by another "lone wolf madman" was that we might need to get used to this situation. That this is the "new normal."

Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (we were still living in Paris at that time), the French responded by flooding the streets with police, including the CRS - the Compagnies Republicaines de Securite (national police), a paramilitary force trained in special, riot control tactics. 

I do not want to 'get used to' fear everywhere. To the senseless killing. To the excuses, frankly, that justify the violence.

The US president has, through a spokesman, offered his support to France. The problem is much larger than France. Today it was Nice, but tomorrow?  Mr Obama spoke of how these attacks are attacks against our 'universal values.'

Well, Mr Obama, it seems that these values are not so universal. At least one man did not share our values of liberty. Of brotherhood.

And today, that man got in a truck and killed at least 75 people who did.

At this point, I am running out of ideas. Frankly, I don't know what to do, or what to think, and I am tired.

In the past, we said, "I am Charlie." "I am Bataclan."  "I am Orlando."

Today, I am just fed up.