Paris Under Siege New Tactics of Terrorism

Charlie 1Within minutes of one of the worst terrorist attacks in Paris, I skimmed a French newspaper while on layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport, en route to my home in Switzerland.

While I enjoyed the freedom to travel between borders, AK-47 toting terrorists gunned down Charlie Hebdo journalists at an editorial planning session in the heart of Paris.

While France mourned, democracies around the world chanted, “I am Charlie” in solidarity. I know from my own family that the French love satire and the freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdo, born out of the student protests in 1968s, reflects the French tradition of ‘esprit critique’ (critical spirit) and a place where journalists can speak their minds.

Since 2006 Charlie Hebdo received terrorist threats for having published caricatures of Prophet Mohammed. Stephen Charbonnier, the editor in chief, one of 12 victims of the attack, was under police protection. But bodyguards and officers stationed outside the door, also slaughtered, offered little protection against terrorism.

Charlie Hebdo poked fun at all, including the Pope and Jesus Christ, as well as political class leaders including extreme right wing Marine Le Pen and other prominent personalities. Though it often ruffled feathers, it also provoked thought and symbolized the right for freedom of expression.Charlie

Charbonnier said his job was not to defend freedom of speech. “But without freedom of speech we are dead. We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than live like a rat

As an American living abroad, I will never forget the impact of 9/11; now January 7/15 stains my soul. Like 9/11, the attack sent ripples of anxiety and outrage across national borders, racial divides and among the traditional French Catholic as well as the 5 million Muslims across the nation.

As the story unfolded live on national TV, the horror escalated. Less than 24 hours later, police were shot on the street in another attack. While the public froze, the government mobilized 90,000 police officers to search for the two terrorists who fled taking refuge in a printing company in a village near Charles deGaulle Airport. Meanwhile the other gunman encamped in a kosher grocery store at the Porte de Vincennes and killed several hostages. Nearby students cowered in lockdown, shoppers hid in garages, homeowners were confined, the peripherique (highway circling Paris) shut down, the nation held its breath.

I waited and watched as experts explain a new era of terrorism, a terror that reigns within. French citizens target their own country in an attempt to disrupt and paralyze society with fear.

President Holland attempted to calm his nervous nation with powerful speeches defending human rights. In spite of the Franco- American differences, our fundamental ideologies remain the same. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity — the bedrock of French values – are also the pillars upon which America was built.

“Each and every American stands with you today,” President Obama said as he offered support to our oldest ally. “The universal belief in freedom of expression is something that can’t be silenced because of senseless violence.”

As an American writer married to a French printer, intellectual freedom has been part of my family’s foundation. My children, born and raised in Paris in early years, were educated in Geneva as global, international citizens.

Over this past winter holiday, feeling discouraged, I contemplated stopping my blog and quitting writing. Yet with a heavy heart, as we embark on a new year, I am compelled to put my pen to paper.

Today I mourn for mankind, for the vulnerability in each of us against the faceless enemy of terrorism that threatens our existence. Like so many people, I want to do something, anything, to stop the madness. Helpless and hopeless I wring my hands and scrawl until my fingers bleed.

I must write.

Because I can.

And I will!

Posted in education, humor, inspiration, relationships, social view.

35 Comments

  1. Pat — what a great article — you really covered it all — am glad you are going to keep writing — however, I agree – what a very sorry state of affairs, not only France, or the United States but all countries — you just wonder where it is all going to lead — trish

    • It is wonderful to hear from you Kim. So glad to know that you appreciate my work. You know from you own art, how painstaking it can be, but like you I will be keep “stitching” …one word at a time.

  2. I love reading your insights into world events. As an American living in Europe, you have a unique perspective and the ability to connect with both sides of the ocean. Keep up the great work! Those who strive to restrict free speech will themselves be silenced by their own actions.

    • Martin, what a wonderful suprise to hear from you, like a warm hug from the homeland. I had no idea that you were following. Thanks so much for commenting and giving me a boost during these troubling times.

  3. Pat, part of me really gets where you’re coming from — and the urge to cower under a blanket until the madness goes away. The other part — the journalist! — says an emphatic NO! We cannot be silenced, we cannot quit doing whatever we can to make our world peaceful. I think we feel helpless because we see how miniscule our efforts are. Perhaps the best thing we can do is fall to our knees and pray! Glad you’ve opted to continue writing and blogging — as others have pointed out, as an American living overseas, you have a special vantage-point!

    • Well said, Debbie. As a writer, you understand the despair and can also appreciate like you said the need to continue sharing our a messages. As you know it is a curse and a blessing. Thanks for lifting me with your words.

  4. I agree with all….Keep writing, share you thoughts and feelings, experiences..you have a gift..don’t be silent..for all the journalists.. all the people you reach out to all over the world..keep writing!

  5. Pat, I feel what you’re saying…But, the pen is mightier than the sword and you must stay strong and keep writing. As writers, I think we are called to write against the injustice and speak with outrage and solidarity with our words. It is our right and our freedom. In this instance, silence is not golden. Your writing is needed.

    Blessings,

    • Clara, I needed that powerful reminder to keep on, keepin’ on. This is a calling, so even though my legs feel weak and my heart is weary, I will carry on. Like you said the pen is mightier than the sword, and so we need to rally and take a stand together. Thanks for inspiring me with your words. So comforting to know my sistah has my back.Freedom.Fraternity.Humanity.

  6. I didn’t hear about this madness until about eight hours afterwards due to time differences. I woke to read about it and it sickened me to the very core… You write with such wisdom, yet weariness of heart. I am with you on all fronts. I agree we have to try and make a difference through our thoughts and words. I hope to do this also in my actions and by working with adults who will teach children better ways. Keep on blogging, keep on caring, keep on feeling the pain, it is who you are and who you have become. Love and blessings, Rachael xx

    • Thanks for the reminder that through our actions everyday we set an example for the students we teach in hopes of creating a better tomorrow. I know that you are a shining role model for your own beautiful daughters as well as the other people whose lives you have touched over the years, like mine. Best wishes for a new year filled with love and blessings.

  7. Continue your gift. It is enjoyed and appreciated by so many.
    Prayers for you and your country,
    Mary Sue (Farley) Neubauer

  8. Pat, you are a beacon of hope and we do love your writing. Keep up the good work! God Bless the USA! Viva la France. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!! FREEDOM!

  9. As back-office of this blog, I will certainly make sure that Pat keeps on writing.
    On such occasions, we all need voices to carry on positive messages, and she is one of them.

    I must also add that I am extremely proud of my co-citizens; for once, French people forgot their differences, their egocentrism and what divides them. With incredible and powerful dignity, they said no to violence, without hatred, without any call for revenge, just a strong statement that civilisation will win over barbary, archaïsm and totalitarism.

    Seeing the same thing all over the world can make us all optimistic about the future of our world.

    Gérald

    • Dear Gerald, thank you for your lifting message and for supporting your beautiful wife in “putting pen to paper”. We stand united with you and we need Pat’s powerful words to nurture our hope and optimism for a better world. Blessings~

  10. Copied from a comment on Le Monde’s blog (http://bigbrowser.blog.lemonde.fr/2015/01/09/what-is-charlie-hebdo-lhebdomadaire-satirique-explique-aux-etrangers/):

    Stealing a Poet’s Joke (or Poem? or Comic?) from Paris: « Je Suis Charlie » by Me

    Today I am a man, dying to write you a tiny poem from Paris;

    Today just because you’re annoyed so much that I want to write all day long,

    You will attack my blank paper, cold-blooded, masked, with deadly assassin bullets;

    Today the Eiffel Tower will shrink miniature, to a smaller size than the sharp pencil gripped tightly between my fingers;

    Today everyone but you will be united for the right to be a great Poet, Writer, Comedian,

    Cartoonist, Charlie Hebdo or Artist;

    Today the dots on the cheating dice you thought you rolled finally rubbed off and faded;

    Today time froze between your gun-shots, whilst strangers in disguise dodged past the blood,

    And stole the spot to draw one of my biggest ironic jokes,

    Secretly hanging it up at night in Le Louvre, next to a lady with a lasting smile,

    Re-painting it, and scribbling their own signatures in bold,

    Every corner of the globe re-framing it.

    (I hereby grant the world or any potential poet a “free”, unlimited, non-exclusive license to kindly translate this into their own language and share it “freely. » Original)
    Rédigé par : Eme

  11. Oh Pat, I’m arriving a little late to this lively discussion about what is happening in our world. I will join with your many fans in cheering you on. Once again you have captured the experience in vivid detail and inspire hope. I totally understand your need to back off from time to time. I’m just coming out from my own blue funk. But I can tell you, we and the world need your powerful stories, that enlighten, inspire and empower. After reading your posts, I always feel they should go into wider circulation and be published in magazines or newspapers so others can experience the power of your voice. Write on, my friend. You have a gift and we and the world need to hear your words. Sending hugs!

    • Thanks Kathy. I know you know as you face the so many of the same issues I do both with your health and your writing. Your words are lifting me today. The outpouring of support around the world yesterday helps restore one’s faith in mankind. Hugs back at ya!

  12. I hope, Pat, that you will continue to grace this world with your thoughtful words. I, also, wrote something today that I hope you’ll take a moment to read. I lived in Paris a long time ago and then took my sons to live in the Provence for a few months when they were young. France and the French are near and dear to me.

    • Thanks Paula for reaching out and connecting. I would love to read your blog, but have been unable to access it. Could you send me the direct link and I will try again. All I come up with is server not found.

  13. Patty, Please never allow yourself to feel so discouraged that you choose to stop writing–take an occasional break maybe, but never stop. Let all these comments be testament to the fact that you inspire your readers so now, allow our words to be your inspiration to continue putting pen to paper!

    And thanks, Gerald, for reassuring us that she will do so. My prayers to you and your country as you come to grips with such heinous acts of dealing with our differences.
    Yockway!

    • Your words are greatly appreciated Peggy. Your comment is like long distance BBF hug. You have lifted my spirit with your thoughts, prayers and friendship. Yockway!

  14. You said it beautifully, Pat.,And please do continue writing. Your blog is one I always look forward to reading. The attacks in France have left the world reeling. I pray that our combined outrage will result in a new effort to mobilize against evil forces and take back control of our lives. At the same time, I pray for peaceful solutions and no more bloodshed.

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