I want to say something about Paris, and the horrors last night. I just can’t think of anything to open with that doesn’t sound trite. I’m a contrary soul at the best of times, as anyone who knows me can affirm. If there’s a difficult way of doing it properly as I see it and an easy way to bodge it, then I’ll be there with my sleeves rolled up taking an almost perverse pleasure in not taking it easy.
Perhaps that’s why I have an instinctive aversion to joining in when social media sites promote a filter to show support, even when it’s for things that I care about. Changing my Facebook picture with a rainbow, or the tricoleur, or an equality symbol seems too easy a way to salve my conscience rather than actually do something.
I’m not saying its a waste of time, or not important to show respect and support, but there’s something that seems too regimented or institutionalised about it. That perversely argumentative element of me interprets the filter as a statement: This is the only way to show your support for this thing. If you do not use this thing then you are against it.
What has lifted my spirits in the face of these evil acts of bullying spite has been how widespread the positive responses have been from individuals to shut down those who tried to use Paris as an excuse to highlight and promote their hate-filled agendas. People have been educating and supporting each other, asking awkward questions, widening the debate and above all not surrendering to fear.
I didn’t hear about it all until this morning until I picked up the papers for work. I started to read the reports as I prepared the papers for my customers, and online on a number of news sites, and I had to purposefully stop myself from overloading on commentary and explanations and reiterations of events because it was all so overwhelmingly horrifying – and I had to work. I had to plaster on a smile for children and families coming in to the library. I had to keep the sense of horror locked inside until I could get home and acknowledge it in private with loved ones.
I also had to balance it against the emergencies of the friends around me who are having their own crises. I may not be in a position to help those directly affected by the shootings and bombings, but I can take a leaf from Terry Pratchett’s witches and deal with what is in front of me. I can comfort those around me; I can pass on useful information; and I can challenge misinformation or opportunistic nastiness.
There are good things happening today, and Paris remains a place to live and love and sing and play. Because fuck the bullies and those who wound them up like tin robots bought on the Champs Elysées. This isn’t about religion: terror is terror and that’s what the bullies want. They want us to hand over our power to determine our lives and loves for ourselves. You don’t have to be a contrary soul like me to know the correct response to that.