Is there anything left to say?
I am shocked. Horrified. Deeply, deeply upset. Angry. Overwhelmed. Helpless.
What do we even do in the face of this sort of attack?
France is not my homeland, and I haven’t even been to Nice, so I don’t know why this particular attack is hitting me so hard. Perhaps it is because it comes on the heels of so many other attacks recently. Perhaps it is because it is the third attack on France in the last eighteen months. Perhaps it is because I hate seeing my French friends and colleagues so subdued (they are not, by nature, a subdued bunch). As one of them said today, “I know the world is peppered with a whole lot more atrocities that are just not as televised and that’s quite unfair in itself, but I do feel like it’d be nice if these people would leave France alone for a bit.”
Yeah, that. All of that.
But for me, at least, there’s one more part to this – that guilty sense of relief that once again, it’s not us. Nobody I know has lost anyone. And I can’t say ‘thank God’ for that without thinking of the people who have absolutely no reason to thank God right now.
And with the relief comes the inevitable fear – the little voice that sees that ‘not us’ and adds a quiet ‘this time’ to the end. This time, it isn’t us. This time, we were safe. This time, it was still something to learn about on the internet, or on a tea break, or on TV. This time.
What about next time, though?
How do we stop the next time? Or, since that is probably a mite optimistic, how do we stop the time after that?
I think – I still think – the answer is building and strengthening community. To continue reaching out and connecting with the people around us and loving them and letting them know that they are loved. In the long term, I don’t think there is any other solution. The cause of this is not, I think, religion, or unemployment, or even mental health. Not entirely. It’s isolation and a lack of connection that makes it possible to see others as enemy targets rather than brothers and sisters.
But building community, even in tiny steps, takes energy. So much energy. And at the end of a long and wearying week, full of terrible things that hurt us so deeply – and that were intended to hurt us so deeply, which makes them more hurtful still – there isn’t a lot of energy left. Not in me, anyway. Right now, it feels like too much to ask.
And maybe that’s something to think about, too. I don’t know about you, but when I see something awful, I immediately want to leap to finding a solution for it. But perhaps sometimes that’s not the best way forward. Not immediately. Sometimes, perhaps, we need time to sit with the pain of it all, to come to terms with it, to grieve and to rage and to accept that it’s real and awful, and to allow ourselves to feel shocked, and horrified, and deeply, deeply upset, and angry, and overwhelmed, and hopeless. Sometimes, perhaps, we need to go through it, not push it aside so that we can fix things. I wonder how many of our worst policies and responses to these sorts of attacks (and so many other things) come from that instinct to fix it all, to find a solution right now, rather than waiting until we’ve all had time to work through at least some of our own emotional reactions?
Maybe being too weary to act immediately is a gift in itself.
(I am not currently appreciating this gift.)
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to spend this evening watching this video, (probably repeatedly, because I find it quite cathartic), and following the news, and probably getting all weepy, because it’s that sort of day. And I’ll probably throw some money at Médecins Sans Frontières, because they are good people, and while they can’t address the underlying problem, nor can I this evening, and nor can anyone, in a single evening, and at least they are trying to solve something. And I’ll pray for my French friends, and for all the people of France, and the victims of this horrible attack, and I’ll try to pray, too, for the people who think that murdering others is a good way to express their religious convictions (I will pray, at the very least, for their enlightenment on this subject).
And tomorrow, I’ll go out again and try to be kind to the people I meet, because on a day to day level, that’s all you can do. And that’s OK. It can’t be a big, exciting project every time, and at least this one is within all of our grasp.
To my French friends – I am so profoundly sorry for your loss. This is a terrible, terrible thing, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my home attacked in such a way. I hope you are OK. I know you will not be defeated by this, but I grieve very much that you are being forced to endure it. May you have a peaceful weekend.