Each morning I wake up to a changed city and a different country. No matter how beautiful the Freedom Tower and other new buildings are at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan, they are part of the new New York, not the one I grew up in and loved. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love NYC, but it will never be the same for me – ever.
The people of France – especially those living in Paris – wake up to a different city and country today. No, their skyline is not irrevocably changed, but the detritus of the wave of terrorist attacks across the city that killed 127 people and wounded hundreds more has pierced them to their souls just as 9/11 severely wounded my city and country. There is no turning back for them, no eradicating the blood and loss and destruction and fear. Those things are forever now.
I have a great love for Paris and France having been there many times. My connection goes back to my father who, after serving in the Army in World War II, stayed on after the war and helped with the rebuilding efforts. He spoke fluent French and made friendships that lasted a lifetime. When I first went to school in Paris, I got to meet his French friends who greeted me as if I were next of kin.
I will never forget the love I felt there, and the feeling that it was not just our families that were inextricably linked but our nations. The people I visited had little American flags all over their house right next to French flags – the symbolism reminding me of relationship going back to Generals Lafayette and Washington.
Now many years after my time there I fear for all the French people because I know that this kind of thing will lead to more carnage. While I understand why French President Francois Hollande has reacted the way he has – declaring a national state of emergency, closing the country’s borders, and promising a “merciless fight” against the terrorists – there is always the thought of the never ending war (think Afghanistan for the U.S.) that follows.
Confucius wrote that when embarking on a journey of revenge that you should first dig two graves. Throughout history there has been so much carnage, so much unnecessary violence, all in the name of tit for tat. What often happens is this cycle of retaliation and retribution goes on so long, the participants sometimes end up forgetting why they are fighting – they are just programmed to keep doing what they have always done.
The terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and apparently tweeted the message “The State of the caliphate hit the house of the cross.” This kind of incendiary language only fuels the religious insanity on both sides of the fence – murder and destruction in the name of one’s god is perhaps the most insidious violence of all.
At this time saber rattling is usually what leaders do, but then we can only expect more of the same results. If France attacks ISIS in Syria, there will inevitably be more attacks on that country. After two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans learned hard learned lessons – we lost so much, got very little in return, and the terrorists are still causing mayhem. This vicious cycle of tit for tat will be forever ongoing unless someone makes an effort to get it to stop.
While we ordinary Americans may feel helpless in regard to stopping these kinds of attacks from happening again, we still can offer support to the people of France. There are many ways to show your support financially, but we must also support the people of France with our actions and words (which includes praying if you are so inclined).
On this cold fall day in New York my heart is in Paris. As I look out the window I think of that other city I love being irrevocably changed, and it saddens me and worries me. There has to be a time when all people wake up and think, “We can’t do this anymore.” War only begets more war; we have to find a way to lasting peace and saber rattling is never going to get us there.
When will all involved drop their swords and say, “Enough is enough”? When will all involved say, “No more dead children, no more dead innocent people”? This better be soon because, while each side claims to win these individual battles, ultimately the human race is losing the war and in essence its humanity.
The Paris attacks should remind us that if it can happen there then it can happen here again or anywhere in the world for that matter. If no place is safe, then every human being on the planet has a vested interest in making it that way by finding answers to get the job done – not next year, not next month or week, but right now! For the sake of our children and their children, nothing less is acceptable.
Photo credits: abcnews.com, ynetnews.com, kyvivpost.com,cnn.com
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