I love Paris. If someone walked up to me today and said, here’s a job with an amazing salary in Paris, I would be on a plane faster than you can say crudité. In fact, I’m supposed to be there next week but haven’t decided if my recent accident and extended stay in LA is going to prevent me from going. There is that insurance deductible I’ll have to cover…
Notre Dame is a French national treasure. A world treasure? I don’t know. Something about Paris resonates so completely around the world that everyone is very quick to express support for tragedies that occur there. I remember being there not long after the latest terrorist shootings and the strange mix of unfamiliar tension and Parisian laissez-faire that drifted in the air like a French perfume that’s missed the mark. I even spent most of my academic years studying French and spent a year in college living in Normandy. I go to Paris once a year. I suppose you could call me a francophile, but I wouldn’t give myself that title. Honestly, I started taking French in middle school because I actually wanted to learn Italian and thought French would be the closest choice. Turns out Spanish is much, much closer… But I learned Italian anyway when I went to live and teach in Italy. 😉
All that aside, I think that, once again, our outrage, grief, and compassion are misplaced. First, when something tragic happens to someone or a group of people, we should avoid making it about ourselves. I, too, have got a photo of me in front of the cathedral and many other magical memories of Paris, but just because I’ve been there and not to the Louisiana hinterlands where three black churches were recently burned shouldn’t mean that I only express my solidarity when I conveniently have photographical proof of my relation to the event or its victims. I cultivated the same opinion about my late brother’s tragic death – it wasn’t about me.
Second, nobody was hurt and that church is equally a symbol of an organization with a turbulent history of so many -isms and -ilias that I’m not going to bother listing them.
And my final point – we can only assume that this was an accident, for now, though internet trolls are already blaming everyone from Trump and the Zionists to the ghost of Edith Piaf. Meanwhile, Palmyra was intentionally destroyed. Israelis and Palestinians continue their war. Right-wing nutjobs scheme fresh ways to marginalize and harm anyone who doesn’t look or think like them. Let’s all keep a fair perspective on what’s important in this world. Paris is burning, sure, [insert death-drop here queen yassss], but the seas are rising, people are drowning in debt, and it’s literally raining microplastics. Balancing emotion with logic is the human gift that people so often refuse to unwrap.
I’m all for beautiful architecture and the preservation of history, but history serves to teach us and inform what’s to eventually become history. Notre Dame is not another 9/11. If you’re going to stand up and speak up for a building, then stand up and speak out against the egregious and unnecessary cruelty, death, and tragedy that occurs in this world every single day. There is more to the world than the media reports.
You’re welcome to disagree or argue that I’m not being compassionate. In yoga, one of the greatest tools we learn is dispassion, which is maintaining a cool state of mind. It’s not the same dispassion of the parking ticket lady while you plead with her to not write you a citation. It’s just looking at all things fairly and staying strong in your own center without letting the chaos of the world move you from it. Ok, so maybe it is just like the parking ticket lady who’s going to be just fine after she sees through your bullshit sob story and gives you what you asked for.