Paris – Solidarité

Paris – Solidarité
By Ben W. | BlueCatShip

I woke up and went online and have just seen the news. Terrible.

Why Paris, or France? Good question.

As a broad generalization, French people tend to react passionately towards social justice issues, philosophical issues, and so on, on a somewhat different level or manner than do Americans. Are they any more or less passionate or idealistic or realistic? Well, probably not, but there are differences in national character in how French people express themselves.

This is my impression as a French-speaking American. If I were to live in a natively French-speaking area, I’d have to learn a lot of vocabulary and review some things, but my French is still pretty fluent, thanks to several semesters in college.

Paris is a large international city and a center of commerce as well as the national capital. It’s older and more historic than, say, New York City. This makes it a target for people who want to cause disorder and terror.

France also has a long history, both as a colonial power, but also as an exploratory and trading nation, and a long history of contact with northern Africa and the Middle East. So there’s a long history of both friendly and unfriendly feelings going on between those nations and France. France and French-speaking areas tend to have tolerant relations with these areas, but that isn’t to say that there isn’t also prejudice and tension between French-speaking and north African / Middle Eastern peoples.

So while France has a minority population of people from the area, Muslims and others, Arabic-speaking people and others, there are still tensions, despite tolerance. And that leads some to want to put a wedge in and use those sore spots and prejudices on both sides as a way to drive people further apart or to get what a given person or group wants, disorder, terror, as a way to grab power, wealth, beliefs, and so on, while people are looking the other way. By giving both sides more reasons to dislike (or hate or fear) each other, the people behind such attacks want to gain for themselves and their beliefs.

So never mind an overall history of relations between France and north African / Middle-Eastern nations, any tendencies towards tolerance and peaceful relations, trade, and so on. Never mind that there’s a minority population throughout France. Instead, people bent on causing hate and fear as tools would rather cause hate and fear and try to make people believe what their group wants, to grab what they want to get, make some political or religious statement, further divide and stir people up, and so on.


One of my professors when I went back for my associate’s degree was an immigrant, a Syrian and Muslim, fluent in English, working toward citizenship for himself and his wife, with a child born here in the US. When someone had asked him, during an informal class session, about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, about perception of Muslims, and so on, he gave an interesting answer.

He said that it’s one thing to be over here and hear about the conflict going on. But it’s another to be over there and have one group fighting another group, back and forth, this group, that group, another group, both within one’s own religion or nationality and outside it from neighboring countries or from minority or majority groups within one’s own country. That is, if someone attacks your neighborhood, your friends, your relatives, assaults a woman you know, kills or maims kids, etc., attacks buildings, monuments and historical sites, sacred areas (mosques, temples, churches, synagogues), then of course people get angry and retaliate. They take things into their own hands to protect themselves. Or they get angry and fight back and cause more violence against whoever they think hurt them. That goes back and forth, on and on. It causes animosity and hate and division, over generations, even if people want to be moderate or peaceful. People can only take so much, and then they react, whether it’s wise or justified or not. And the cycle continues on and on, over and over — because no on stops it and keeps it stopped. No one says enough’s enough, I won’t do that anymore.

He said also that you could either stay in all that and live as best you could and do what you can, as a moderate person, peaceful, religious or secular — Or you could decide enough was enough, and take yourself and your family and move somewhere else, where there was more opportunity and a peaceful life and some more degree of tolerance for differences of religion, ethnicity, and so on.

He chose to move to the US, study here, live here, become an American citizen, and to marry a young woman from his country who had come here, where she was working toward citizenship too, and where they married here and had their first child, who was therefore an American. His English was good, he was mostly moderate both in religious views and in secular views. He was a professor, so an academic, and education and intelligence were important to him.

Be it noted, I didn’t always agree with him or how he did things. Heh. But he was an OK guy, a reasonable person, I thought, and someone you could deal with. He sincerely wanted that American life and ideal for himself and his family. — I can also say he had the worst handwriting I think i’ve ever seen. I can’t vouch for how his Syrian and Arabic writing were, but his English handwriting? Awful. LOL. I relied on taking notes from his speaking, not from what he was putting on the board, which I could hardly read, even knowing what it was. Heh.

But I took his points, his experience and perspective, as key in understanding what it’s like to live in an area where so many very different groups are often in armed conflict and competing for beliefs and ideas, for worldly goods and land to live on, for their perceived ways of life. — And his demonstrated choice, to move out of that and seek a new life elsewhere, even while keeping his own beliefs and his family contacts (of course), that spoke to what he thought, believed, how he viewed things, and his ultimate goals.


Around the same time, my mom and I also often ate at a local restaurant that served mostly “Italian” dishes. We were regulars and got to know the owners a little. When we asked where they were from, the answer, carefully, was that they were Persian. (Note that. Not stated as Farsi, not stated as Iranian.) My mom and I both knew “Persian” is “iranian, Farsi.” They said that they put it that way because of so much prejudice against Middle Easterners, especially Iranians, and Muslims. (They were Christians.) They stayed in business a few years before closing the restaurant. But this shows how people’s perceptions and ignorance and prejudices can operate. Tell someone they were Persian, and most people would think that was wonderful. Tell the same someone they were Iranian, and the perception would’ve changed, for most people, because of preconceived notions of what Iranians (and Muslims) are like, versus the romantic notion of what “Persian” is. As someone who knew a little (very little) about history and language, like myself or like my mom, it was as frustrating for us, as mainstream, majority Americans, to run into that from people who only wanted to build a new life in America, assimilate, and leave that old life behind. They had left their home country to escape the bad situation over there.

Later that same semester, I learned from another professor (white American) that a fellow professor in her department was Farsi / Persian / Iranian and having real trouble, because she and her family had had to leave Iran to be safe, and yet she (and family) was (were) facing prejudice over here, due to prejudices about race, nationality, and religion. (Whether the other prof was Muslim or Christian wasn’t stated, but she may have been Christian instead of Muslim.)

So — The problem is ongoing from both (or multiple) sides.

Where does it stop? When do enough people stop and say they’ve had enough of the endless cycle of violence and intolerance, and they don’t want to fight with their neighbors anymore?

When and why does it become acceptable to hate so much over religious beliefs or some other ideology that you and your group think that hurting and killing people who live nearby, neighbors, is justifiable, or even a good thing?

How can anyone believe in any god and claim to want tolerance, peace, love, forgiveness — and yet actively hate and exclude and hurt other people, just because they are different, or believe or act differently?

Note: I don’t exempt my own country or my own religious background from those questions. I am just as offended by that as any “foreign” actions.

The level of ignorance, of prejudice without thought, of outright hatred and greed and intolerance, instead of a willingness to live and let live … offends me greatly. But I don’t therefore want to go out and hurt or kill or drive out or shun anyone because of it. You go your way, I’ll go my way. If we interact, then be decent and civil. Treat the other person like you’d want to be treated. Don’t be awful to someone, just because they are different or believe differently. Why treat someone badly for that? And how is that going to influence them to listen to your ideas, to think about them, and maybe to change their minds to agree with you? It won’t. It only drives people apart. I want a better world than that.

“We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“I may not agree with you, sir, but I shall defend to the death your right to disagree.”
— Voltaire (very) paraphrased

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
— Benjamin Franklin, 1755, to the Pennsylvania State Legislature