When Paris was attacked a week ago, most of us loaded the filter of the French flag on our Face Book profiles, in solidarity to the tragic events that unfolded, in disbelief. I see many have changed back to the norm, which is their choice, but I am hanging on for awhile.
For me, loving Paris as I do, the attacks were, as for the world, the horror of mankind at its worst. Days of shock, fear, anxiety and fixated to news. But also, for me, the real horror is only just beginning. In situations such as these, the attacks are simply the beginning of the true torture. It is now, days following, that Parisians get past the blood letting and numbness and reality is more awful than a few hours of killing.
It is only now that parents walk into empty rooms.
Only now that policemen and women stop reacting and begin to ingest what truly happened. When students and friends feel the missing, look for faces and hear voices gone. Walking into the office to an empty desk. Only now burials begin. Voicemails haunt. Post lies unopened. Flowers die and pavements evoke reality. It is only now that the loss, the waste, the futility seeps through.
Tourism will drop. Cancelled bookings will reverberate into lost income, redundancy and unemployment. The city of love will be unloved.
Now, more than ever Paris needs support. More than ever Europe needs solidarity and normality. As I see Parisians continue to sit at the sidewalk cafes, drink, smoke and make love – they are living through tears, through fear and now, they need us to do the same.
I am to Paris in a few days. Did I think of cancelling, yes. Am I going to let those radical, poor misguided criminals deter me from embracing a city I love, or live in London with half a life, always weary, always doubting, always sceptical, no.
For I believe in love. I believe in the goodness of mankind and those who embrace life, despite the harshness of terrorism. I will not forget, which is why I now, more than ever, still have the French flag on my Face book, until the those know they are not forgotten, now, when the real pain begins.
As for the theory that posting the French flag denies the horrors in Africa, in Syria, Mali and the rest of the world – they may chose to do as they will. The atrocities in Paris brings them into focus in my opinion. If I were showing the flags of those countries, would you recognise them, relate to them? Now, all is in focus, because of the attack on a city unprepared, unused to the horror of fanaticism, close to home, makes for all countries accounted. I am from Africa where conflict is probable, and in a way, the attack on Paris, has brought those in other parts of the world experiencing the same, all the more close. So how to respond?
I am not a politician. Not a resolution negotiator. I cannot change the world and change the minds of those determined to create hatred and chaos. Too long I have seen violence affect families and hurt. And yet, still, there is the beauty of life.
So, to Paris I go. To keeping the French flag on my FB profile I will. For the hotel owner, the shop keeper, the brocade stall holder. For the attendant at the Orangerie, the Louvre, the bistro, the cafe. For the night concierge, the Tour bus operator – and more importantly, for the parent, the doctor, the undertaker, the police, the diplomat, the friend and lover who feels bewildered and alone … and all the victims of hatred and violence, however simple the gesture – and after I take the filter down, am holding you in my heart.
Going to find the fun I remember so well …
Long live France. I always have Paris. I always have love …