My 9-year-old daughter is half French. Our first conversation in the aftermath of Black Friday in Paris took place over the weekend. Luckily for us, the “status” of our many French relatives and friends had been marked “safe” by then. Among them was 23-year-old Charlotte, who along with her younger brother Alex had followed the dramatic events from a window overlooking a busy boulevard in the 11th arrondissement, as well as Gael, a Bataclan regular, who had not purchased a ticket for the Eagles of Death Metal gig.
Thoughts on how to handle the emerging state of affairs remain divided. There is a certain challenge involved when it comes to striking some kind of a balance between two extremes: living in a bubble vs a nightmarish scenario of experiencing constant fear.
On Sunday morning, my daughter used pastel colors to draw a heart broken in two.
Perhaps we will once again “disagree” like we did at the beginning of the year, when we embarked on heated discussions following the Charlie Hebdo massacre: As far as I was concerned, freedom of expression was non-negotiable in a secular society; she was trying to understand the circumstances of Cherif and Said Kouachi, the two siblings who grew up in foster homes before embracing extremism and storming into an editorial meeting pointing their guns at Charb, Wolinski, Cabu, Tignous and the others, because, according to them, no one had the right to use satire to talk about their god.
At her school in Athens on Monday a moment of silence was observed in memory of the victims, before the children returned to their classrooms to carry on with their curriculum, which includes the history of religions, led by Christianity and Islam.
I wonder if the school program might at one point include a screening of “La Haine” (Hate), an alarming black-and-white film directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. First released 20 years ago, “La Haine” follows a group of youths roaming the streets of Parisian suburban ghettos, where a portion of France’s Muslim community of 5 million people lives.
The subject of war, getting away from it and the continuous incoming flow of refugees, had already come up in chats before Friday’s events.
Three of her good friends and classmates are growing up in Athens because their families left their country, Lebanon, where Islamic State took responsibility for the death of 41 people in an attack carried out last week. We mention her friends’ parents who are studying Greek history in order to sit exams for Greek citizenship. The conversation often turns to our “own” crisis, the one which forced her French dad to leave Greece, a country which hosted him for many years, to find work.
I would like to explain to her that a generation raised with great privileges and a sense of security is now unable to provide the same to its kids.
In the meantime, our next trip to our beloved, wounded Paris is nearing, because – do I need to tell her? – life must go on.