The atrocities of the past week have unleashed a number of questions about the future of freedom of speech, religious sensitivity and tolerance, extremism, national security, racism, diplomacy and national unity. These are all questions that need to be addressed, not just now but on an ongoing basis. Most will be very controversial, and so they should be if we are to hear a real debate on these issues.
Eugène Delacroix (1830), La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People)
My hope is that one lasting legacy of this page in France’s history will be uncontroversial: a real sense of solidarity and trust among the people of Paris. I am not even talking about solidarity among or between the various religious or ethnic groups. I am just referring to the way one individual treats another individual–a stranger–on the street, in a restaurant or shop, on the metro.
Martin Argyroglo (2015), Le crayon guidant le peuple (The Pencil Leading the People)
Paris has not always had the best track record for kindness among strangers. Most foreigners and also most of my French friends who have lived elsewhere and return to Paris lament this lack of warmth, this all-too-common lack of civility one stranger shows to another on a daily basis.
We have all learned to live with it, but we shouldn’t have to.
My hope is that among other lessons, this week’s events will encourage Parisians to look out for one another, to stick up for their neighbors, to trust that there is good in people. Despite the evils we witnessed this week, there were many more heroes. I hope Paris can benefit from the same spirit of coming together that New York witnessed after September 11th, and that endured beyond just the initial aftermath.