By Delaney Benison
When tragedy strikes, there are different ways to handle it. Some shut down as a way of coping and others reach out to help as a way of healing. It is only when we are put in such a position that we find out who we truly are when facing heartbreak and fear.
Defiance. That may be one word to use for the Parisian mindset. They are choosing to live their lives as they did before, not as though nothing has happened, but so as not be held prisoner by their own fear. Parisians are choosing to be defiant and enjoy their city and all that is has to offer.
The New York Times interviewed many Parisians after Nov. 13. They were asked about their lives now and how they are choosing to live since the attacks. The Times interviewed a Parisian man named Maxcel Lezeau, who was out to eat at a restaurant not 50 yards away from a cafe that had been shot at only days before. He told the Times, “This was an attack on our way of life. With this simple act, we’re showing that we are never going to let the terrorists get at the heart of France.” They spoke with an eighteen-year-old college student named Camille Dancourt. She said, “They were trying to kill our very culture — the French way of life; they will not succeed.” Many of them found their way out to cafes and restaurants similar to those that were attacked to show that no, they were not going to be afraid. Terrorists may have had Nov. 13, but they will not have today, and have no reign over the future.
Tributes are being held all over Paris. People light candles and lay flowers in remembrance. The world continues on in the hope for a brighter future. There are beautiful scenes on the streets of Paris of Muslims blindfolded, asking to be trusted. They want to tell the world that they are not terrorists. They are trusting those surrounding them and asking for trust in return. They are imploring people to understand the difference between religion and extremism. They wait, blindfolded, to see if people will hug them. And people do.
“The West Wing,” a popular NBC show that aired in late 90s and early 2000s, aired an episode called Isaac and Ismael shortly after 9/11. In one scene, the deputy director of communications, also a house terrorism expert, is asked by students visiting the White House what strikes him most about terrorism. He answers, “Its 100 percent failure rate. Not only do terrorists fail at what they’re after, but they pretty much always succeed in strengthening what they’re against.” “The West Wing,” written by Aaron Sorkin, is bravely trying to demonstrate here that the triumph of the human spirit is built on something far more substantial and formidable than any bomb or gun can ever hope to destroy. This is what Paris, Beirut and Baghdad can take away from the recent terrorist attacks. Terrorists will always fundamentally fail.
While some are now afraid to leave their homes or travel, it does not mean that solidarity among like minded nations has slowed or been deterred. Many people may find by supporting France, they are supporting an idea. President John F. Kennedy once said, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” Ideas live on through our common practice, in our day to day lives. The idea is that freedom is not a privilege, but a right. We maintain the idea that we will not bend to the fear that weaker men are trying to instill in us. Paris will not be beaten, Beirut will not be beaten and Baghdad will not be beaten. That is the message that Paris sends from this day and everyday forward.