A Letter to Paris

Today, the world’s hearts are heavy.

I ache for you and what you are going through, and even more, what you have ahead of you. I’m insulated from the media speculation, sitting in a quiet airport in Brunei. I’m protected from the guesses and assumptions being thrown out, most of which will be proven false, most of which will have defamatory effects on religious groups. And after you get through this theorizing and accusatory phase of the news cycle, it will focus on what the government should be doing about it. Just hours after the events, and I’ve already seen memes on Facebook likening what happened to you to what could happen to the US, and promoting Donald Trump. I went to respond to those memes, but I just, can’t. I can’t even comprehend how people could have such an idiotic connection anywhere near the top of their to-do lists in terms of response.

But I digress.

After you get through the news cycle calling for government action, analyzing border control and if the refugee crisis made these attacks “easier,” your news cycle and the world’s will bifurcate. Yours will continue to focus on what’s next for Paris, rebuilding the community and the faith of the city. Ours will move on to other world news, to highs and lows everywhere.

We are going to leave you stranded. And that sucks.

In Regards to Community
When a community has to take on tragedy, it is taxing and it doesn’t go away. I lived in Denver during the Aurora theater shooting and the minutes, months and years that followed had serious ups and downs. I did not personally know anyone in the theater, but through circumstances, am connected. At first, as is the case for you now, the whole world was with us. They didn’t understand the details of what was happening or the needs of those affected, but they were with us and we felt it.

You know this because of what you’ve been through just over 10 short months ago. You were strong then, and you will be again. That is the nature of community and it will feel strange and unsettling to feel so proud under such circumstances. To look around and see the high potential of human nature, often only showcased after its other extreme has shown its face.

I’m sorry today; and when the world forgets and you are left to feel all of this on your own, I’m sorry on that day too.

In Regards to Paris
I personally have such little experience in Paris. I went in 1999 with a school trip, when I was 15. My parents said I was too young to appreciate it, and as it turns out, they were right, but I was annoying enough that they conceded and let me go.

I did all the touristy things that a school group would do. And I did the signature touristy thing, I fell in love with the city. The ability to walk the banks of a river, from museum to museum, taking in history and arts and architecture and the FOOD.

I still laugh at the memory that stands out the most from Paris. I noticed on all of the signs telling people to exercise caution, there was a rabbit getting himself into trouble (getting stuck in the subway doors, not minding the gap, etc.). So rather than learning actual, useful, French phrases, the only thing I had to learn in French, was “silly rabbit” – a phrase I still remember to this day.

I also have a slightly out-of-focus picture that I took of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night and it’s not perfect, but I love it. It reminds me of the sense of motion and life that the city always had.

I have little experience or “connection” to Paris. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to live there or have lived there or have loved there to tell you that I’m so sorry for what you’re going through.

In Regards to Travel
I’m traveling solo and part of some amazing groups of travelers on social media. It is through these groups that I actually heard something happened. I have limited access to the internet, and no access to the news (outside of the internet). The events in Paris left a friend questioning her upcoming travel, whether she should go or not. I think that this message is important, so I share it with you here.

Staying inside is not the answer. Home has a pretense of safety, but as morbid as it may sound, it’s false. We live in a world where these things can and do happen everywhere. But we also live in a world full of loving, kind, generous, amazing people. And the real tragedy would be if we, as citizens of this duality, let the former keep us from the latter.

I’m sitting at the airport, eyes filled with tears as I follow the situation and about 20 feet away from me is an adorable 3 year old laughing and making faces with me. I walked the streets of Brunei this morning, crying, thinking about what happened. Scared for the moment when the media (at least the US, conservative media), turns this on Muslims. And I kept walking through an incredible country, 90% Muslim, knowing, of course, this does not represent a religion or a people. I have been in awe how kind every person in Brunei has been to me, regardless of me running around without a head scarf or wearing bright red hair; I even talked about it on the drive to the airport.

And it is truly unfortunate the burden that they will bear by being associated with extremist groups simply through ignorance of people who don’t understand the difference. I have a lot to still learn about the Muslim religion, but I certainly know enough to know that drawing a correlation here is na├»ve, at best.

So what we can do, the “powerless” in the situation, is continue to experience and share the world in a way that breaks down these assumptions and extends the world view of our networks, even if just a little more.

So today I write to you, as one of the powerless. To say that I’m sorry that it hurts. Without jumping to the cause, or to blame, or to politics, or to fear.

I’m sorry that it hurts.

Lovingly,
Jess

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