Thoughts on Paris

Alain Jocard — AFP/Getty image

I have been very upset about the attacks in Paris. Let me speak to those that may have become hardened by witnessing our governments engage in endless war, violence, and injustice– especially those that feel that they are standing up against injustice perpetrated by Western governments. Grieving mothers are grieving mothers. There is no difference between the suffering of a Palestinian, French, American, El Salvadorian, Congolese, or Russian mother. Certainly, people of color are often overlooked by the mainstream media, double standards exist, and Western foreign policies have caused untold suffering to people who go forever without mention from Western media outlets. But, my dear compassionate brothers and sisters, don’t make the grave mistake of being what you criticize. Innocent people are innocent people. Grieving mothers, fathers and children are grieving mothers, fathers, and children– regardless of their national origin. Human beings are human beings. I have felt anguish at the suffering inflicted on people in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and beyond. However, because Western governments have caused a lot(but not all) of that suffering, doesn’t mean it is morally acceptable to turn one’s back to the suffering of innocent people who live under governments whose foreign policies have caused suffering to human beings. You can be better and more principled than becoming what you lament.

My heart remains saddened by the barbaric attacks against my French brothers and sisters. Paris, which is like a second home to me, has given the world so much. Even as I sit here in the United States, Paris is with me. It was with me before the attacks. It is a part of me. As Hemingway wrote, once you live in Paris, it never leaves you. It is feelings, memories, and the joie de vivre. In the end, it is a sentiment that cannot be put into words. The French people make the City of Light what it is; they are the authors of Paris every single day. Paris is not NATO or the French government’s foreign policy– which is sometimes good and heroic, as when Chirac stood strong against invading Iraq, and sometimes not so good, even criminal, as when Sarkozy bombarded Libya, far outside the scope of U.N. resolution 1973, and helped to create utter chaos in that country. Paris is much more than politics. Paris has been a light to the world, a birthplace of ideas and a living work of art. It is a feeling of being truly alive and appreciating our time on earth. It is Parisians that have given us that gift.

Yes, we should all mourn when our Afghan, Palestinian, Iraqi, Congolese, Syrian, Guatemalan (to name a few) brothers and sisters are killed. Atrocities in these lands and others that have been carried out or supported by the United States have led me to speak consistently against war, exploitation, and injustice. However, the existence of media, moral, and political double standards– a tribal mentality among too many of our brothers and sisters– should not translate into good and compassionate people turning an emotional and indifferent eye to the tremendous suffering, pain, and sorrow of our French family. We are a human family.

My heart continues to hurt for the victims and their families. When things like this happen, it can shake the emotions and spirits of people all across the globe. This is most certainly true because on a spiritual level we are all connected. I pray for Paris and that angels are sent to that beautiful city to comfort, console, and give strength to the suffering. I pray for peace and an end to all this war, division, and man’s inhumanity toward man.

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