Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thoughts on the Paris attacks

Back when I lived in Château Rouge, in the northeastern corner of Paris in the 18eme arrondissement, one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning - a morning much like this one - was to descend from my flat and walk south.

I would walk through the Marché Dejean, where vendors from places like Côte d’Ivoire,  Sénégal, Congo and elsewhere would sell their wares in front of Algerian-owned bars, and, strolling down the Boulevard Barbès or through the Goutte d'Or, I would eventually cross the Boulevard de Rochechouart, under the elevated métro lines. Walking south, past the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est which link Paris with so much of the rest of the world either directly or through connections to its airports, I would veer east and, heading towards the Canal Saint-Martin and to the Quai de Jemmapes, arrive at what is possibly my favourite few blocks of the city.

On a mild day anytime of the year, spots like L'Atmosphère, the Hôtel du Nord and Chez Prune would be crowded with people of every background and nationality, eating, drinking, flirting. Couples would be reclining in one another's arms, and some young person would be playing a guitar. Sunlight would filter down through the leaves of the trees around the canal, and the branches would move in a surprisingly delicate ballet from even the faintest breeze. For those moments you sat there, no matter who you were or where you were from, you could feel a measure of peace, and feel embraced by a city whose history was larger than yourself.

For those of you who don't understand or are asking why those who know it and love it are so wrenched by an attack like this on the La Ville Lumière, which occurred only minutes' walk from the place I am describing this is the reason. Despite all its problems, Paris represents so much to love in the world for so many people; liberté, laïcité, sexual liberation, multiculturalism. It represents so much to be aspired to when elsewhere, even within Europe and France itself, there seems to be only darkness.

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure 
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

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