Saturday, April 9, 2016

'En nom de quoi?'
(In the name of what?)
 
 
Since the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper-Kacher store attacks in Paris, I have taken a stance of waiting quite a while before writing any posts because I need the time to process these horrific events and I want to read what others who are far more knowledgeable than me have to say about them.  The problem with this stance is that I have waited too long, as the attacks just keep coming, and I have missed the opportunity to acknowledge them.  But I do feel that as a travel writer I have a duty to say something, no matter when, and since it seems certain there will be more attacks, my posts will remain relevant. 
 
After I've read just about everything I can find, I like to identify the articles and opinions I feel are the best summations.  Here are a few that stood out over the past months:
 
*The best handwritten sign I saw in a photograph taken in Paris in November featured the words at the top of this post.  
 
*John Cassidy, who writes a great column for The New Yorker that you can subscribe to at no charge, recommended this article (also from The New Yorker) entitled 'Journey to Jihad' by Ben Taub.

*'How to Beat Islamic State' by Maajid Nawaz (The Wall Street Journal, 11 December, 2015) is a really interesting piece.  Nawaz is the founding chairman of a counterextremism organization in London called Quilliam, and the author of Radical: My Journey Out of Islamic Extremism (Lyons Press, 2013).  After it appeared, there was some online chatter that somewhat discredited Nawaz, but I feel at its core the piece is spot on. 

*'Faith and Its Consequences' by Nicola Clark (The New York Times, 21 February, 2016) explores the current state of a uniquely French tradition called laïcité (pronounced lie-EE-see-tay), the legal separation of religious and civic life that dates from the French Revolution.

*Also from The New York Times, the 'Friday File' for 19 November, 2015 by Mary Jo Murphy, which was devoted to an article that appeared on the front page of the paper on Christmas Day, 1914.  'Paris's Gaiety Gone: Even Restaurants Not Allowed to Keep Open Longer Than Usual' ended with a reference to a patriotic revue showing at the Bataclan.  This reminded me, again, that the first time I heard of the famous Paris club was in an art history class, and the name of it was written as Bat-a-clan.  I remembered the club as being part of a painting's title, perhaps by Toulouse-Lautrec or Degas or Seurat, but I can find no mention of it -- yet -- in any of the books on my shelves.  Emphasis on the word 'yet.' 

I wrote the paragraph below after September 11th and included it in several of my books as well as in my post after Charlie Hebdo.  Though it isn't new, it seems worth repeating again:

If terrorist attacks are always within the realm of possibility, then so are the mundane activities of our daily existence, such as walking out the front door and picking up the morning newspaper, standing on a ladder and cleaning the leaves out of the gutter, or carrying clothes a few blocks away to the dry cleaner – each of which carries the risk of falling down and hitting our head on the sidewalk or the stone steps or the fire hydrant, not to mention drunk driving accidents, street crimes, hate crimes, heart attacks, rape, or murder.  If we never leave our homes, we are effectively living in fear; if we travel with fear, we are victims of that fear, real or imagined, even if not a single incident occurs while we’re away. 

Travel on, dear readers.