A Note From Paris: ‘Fluctuat Nec Mergitur’

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A view of the Eiffel Tower in fall 2014. Photo by Shane Vives Atsara Woodward.

A view of the Eiffel Tower in fall 2014. Photo by Shane Vives Atsara Woodward.

PARIS – It’s been just over a week since the attacks on Paris, the place my San Antonian husband has called home for the past 12 years. The place I now call home.

Media around the world share moments of mayhem captured, the gunfire, the sirens, stories of the souls lost. French President Francois Hollande, like U.S. George W. Bush before him, speaks familiar words: Send bombs. Wage war.

But there are no celebrations here. Parisians react with ambivalence to the President’s speech and the capture of alleged attackers.

The same national debate over national security versus civil liberties that still engulfs the United States 15 years after Sept. 11, 2001 now divides the French people and its government and military.

The French, too, want to be safe at home, but they are not naive enough to think the capture or killing of the perpetrators or their backers will change anything. It certainty won’t bring back the lives lost, nor prevent similar horrors from occurring here or somewhere else.  So the French lay flowers, light candles, and quietly, with sorrow and defiance in their eyes, celebrate life again, as they always have and always will. Their solidarity is stated on freshly painted walls throughout the city “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur,” Latin for “tossed (by the waves), but not sunk.”

The words “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” adorn a memorial for the victims of the Friday, Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

The words “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” adorn a memorial at Place de la Republique for the victims of the November Paris attacks. Photo via Instagram.

But the world does not follow suit. The media sensationalizes. And on the walls of a world in which people hide their faces behind photos hued in red, white and blue, a different reaction ensues, fueled by the very impulse of ignorance and hatred that reaped death on these streets.

Rain falls in Paris. Photo by Shane Vives Atsara Woodward.

Rain falls in Paris. Photo by Shane Vives Atsara Woodward.

They blame refugees – those who flee their home country in desperation – and Muslims – 1.57 billion people who couldn’t possibly “all be terrorists” or “we” would be quite extinct for these acts of terror. They embrace the very fear, hatred and violence they condemn. Ignorantly, they promote the next tragedy. Ignorantly, they feed the anger resting inside the dormant souls of those who commit crimes like these.

Directly disrespecting the lives lost, they use a tragedy they don’t understand as a platform for their heightened racism and dehumanization. Conclusive chatter which insults the very beliefs the majority of the lives lost here fought for and believed in.

“WAR,” the close-minded shout, with sinful wrath burning in their bellies, suffocating their souls.

“WAR,” they cry again, forgetting, these tragedies, though horrific, are reactions amplified and provoked by the wars we as a Western world wage.

Forgetting that if one allows their heart to fill with hatred and their soul to fill with wrath, one becomes no better, nor worse, than those who seek to destroy the peace and freedom these cries of “WAR” claim to protect.

That they have learned to think like those they so venomously hate.

For they’ve fed from the same fires of terror, death and darkness.

And they have unintentionally become very much the same.

 

*Top image: A view of the Eiffel Tower in fall 2014. Photo by Shane Vives Atsara Woodward

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