Author: Marianne Mercier
With the news channels streaming in the background, we count our dead and check if our friends are well.
While every politician is expressing his own message of compassion at the same time as his strong determination to eradicate the threat… While hospitals are inundated with blood donors… While newspapers are dwelling on dramatic and poignant eyewitness accounts of survivors or of relatives of the victims…While, after a too-long night of anguish, we are hesitating on as little as whether we should go out do our shopping… Any message seems vain and we find ourselves wondering whether writing coud solve anything.
What more to say? Why harp on about the same ideas that have not left us since the 7th of January?
Resigned, stupefied, but also overwhelmed. Difficult to sort things out, difficult to escape drowning.
Beware, beware for your safety, stay at home. Beware of the political appropriation, beware of the Left, beware of the Right, beware of Front national. Beware of the borders, beware of immigrants, beware of strangers and beware even of those who are French citizens. Beware of naivety, beware of peace, beware of forgiveness. Beware of war, beware of anger, beware of amalgams. Beware of religions, beware of extremists, beware of the sacred, don’t pray for Paris, Paris doesn’t need that; Paris doesn’t want your beliefs.
Yet it is more important than ever to keep your head above water.
The 11th district is a small village. This neighbourhood is more or less young, more or less working-class, more or less lively, more or less hipster, more or less calm. You won’t find two streets that look alike, yet the same spirit prevails, that of a dreamy Parisian life, where you can stay out late at light and then go do your shopping in the street market in the next morning.
I live near rue de Charonne, as well as many of my friends. We were close enough to hear the shots, followed by sirens until late at night. We could have well been on the terrace of the Belle Equipe. All potential targets.
However, should we carry this weight on our shoulders? Is it up to us to be cautious, avoid gatherings, not to go out too late at night? How can we imagine living cloistered at home, to give up on our freedoms? But the fear is here. At the same time irrational and so justified…
If the events of Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher had shocked, those of last night go well beyond. At our doorstep, in our streets, in our bars, in our concert halls, in our stadiums, a threshold has indeed been crossed.
The calls for action remain abstract: what to do when faced to such arbitrariness, when the only crime committed by the victims is being in the wrong place at the wrong time? How to act? What reaction to adopt, not in our words or in our texts, but in our lives? How to continue? How?
We do not ask how, we do it, that’s all.
So you keep your head above water. You breathe and above all, you don’t stop.