Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Peace for Paris

I was riveted to the refresh button Friday night, trying to catch each news update coming out of Paris. It was unnerving. My husband was just there 2 weeks ago. Not that has anything to do with anything—except that more than ever I felt connected to Paris. I just hosted a family from France—not that they were directly in harm’s way, but to say I felt concerned.

As I do sometimes on this blog I’ll comment on social media. For and against it, like most of us.

Did anyone else notice that they received a safety check from friends in Paris? I’m not sure how I feel about this feature. I understand the utility of it, but am disheartened by the necessity. On one hand when there is a disaster such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, friends and relatives bombard emergency services in hopes of locating and assessing the safety of loved ones. The “helpers” as Fred Rogers called them are overwhelmed and if there is an easy fix such as that loved one pinging or checking in on Facebook to relieve the concern of others, then yes thank you for this tool.

Yet, I shake my head, what a messed up world we live in. That an auto-generated message informed me that Bastien Pourtout, a gifted photographer, was “marked safe during the Paris Terror Attacks.”

I also don’t know how I feel about those capital letters—for Terror Attacks. Like the news crawlers and logos that splash across the screens I turn to for information in times of Panic. It feels like a commodification of some terrible event that is happening right now, this moment. And I’m not ready for that.
Such as the icon tweeted out by Jean Jullien, Peace for Paris. 162.2k shares later: “. . . The world embraced it almost immediately. And now, not quite 24 hours later, people are printing it on T-shirts, on posters, and on flags. . .” To be fair he had no overarching purpose with the design. From Wired,

Did you sit down with this image in mind?
No, to be honest. I didn’t do any sketches. It was a reaction.
I understand being almost ashamed of the traction this has gotten and the reach that it’s had. But at the same time, is it not the role of artists to give us symbols of strength and solidarity in times like this?
I agree. I just …

This is a difficult tension to balance. But in the midst of the chaos that evening, it brought many people together.

For a second. Before everyone started using the blue, white and red colors of the French flag as an overlay on their Facebook cover photo and critics turned up the heat—what about Kenya! What about Beirut?

Here is how a good and wise friend of mine responded:
Tiana Elaine Coleman
I think our hearts are big enough to grieve for many people, many countries, and many sad situations that we encounter daily.
I don't want to dissect anyone's grief ("why them and not them? ", "why that flag? " ...).
I don't want my grief dissected.
I want to grieve for a fallen and broken world that keeps choosing hate over love.
And after grieving I want to search for hope and healing, and be a part of bringing them to a world in desperate need of both.

And, yes, she had the French flag colors over her pic.

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