The Whole World is Crying for France

On a street corner in Paris the sidewalk is garlanded with flowers, and in the Le Carillon corner bar the walls are sprayed with blood. At the Staid de France stadium gates where a bomb blast sounded an anguished echo rings. And where terror struck the nightlife hub of this vibrant city the aftershocks strike a chord that resonates in the hearts of millions as the whole world cries for France.

Many of those who are shedding tears have never even been to France. But anyone who ever read the works of Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus or even honorary Frenchmen like Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller will always have a soft spot for all things French. They’re crying out loud for an ideal of cultural richness, for that relaxed laissez faire outlook and the economic, social and personal freedom that France stands for.

Anyone who has ever visited France is spurting heartfelt tears. Anyone who ever had preconceptions of French arrogance and discovered that the stereotype is simply not true has fond memories of the place and the people. Anyone who ever saw young Parisians stretch out on blankets on the Champs de Mars park lawn beneath the Eiffel Tower with bottles of wine on languid afternoons can’t help but bemoan that carefree way of life that was so alarmingly disrupted, and so cruelly shattered.

They’re crying in New York, where in recent memory they despised the French for their opposition to US intervention in Iraq after 9/11. Those who ridiculed their dovish policy or grumbled that they never properly thanked the Americans for liberating them in WW2, and those who forgot that the French Revolution helped liberate their forefathers, all those critics are sobbing now as the Statue of Liberty bears silent witness in New York Harbor.

They’re crying in London, though some have the patriotic cheekiness to laugh about how they routed the French in past wars. In the horrific and humbling aftermath of this traumatic weekend, no one is laughing about how King Edward III’s army ravaged the French countryside in the Hundred Years War. The English are well aware that the French won the ultimate battle when they got rid of their monarchs and became the world’s first democracy. And any Londoner who ever crossed the English Channel for a carefree and exciting weekend in Paris now has good cause to wail.

We’re crying here in Israel too, where French is oftentimes synonymous with anti-Semitic, where so many Israelis have the gall to say “maybe now the French will understand us,” and where Tel-Aviv locals unabashedly flocked to Rabin Square last night in a show of solidarity with France. When terror strikes against those often difficult European allies of ours we empathize with them, have good reason to. Some Israelis are aware that the same French who falsely convicted Alfred Dreyfus also had the good will to clear his name and restore his rightful rank. And Shimon Peres reminds us that France was the first country to sell us military weapons, stressing the right of a freedom loving nation to defend its independence and democratic ideals. Politics aside, our grief for France reaffirms our common goals, which were best articulated by the French motto: liberté, égalité, fraternité.
They’re weeping in the darkest corners of Asia and Africa where the free will that all mankind strives for is suppressed and national liberation is still a dream. They’re lamenting the humane principles that were so wrongly rejected, the lives that were so brutally taken, and the hope that now seems even more elusive.

And they’re devastated in Paris, for the loved ones who fell and the wounded who will never be the same, for the black hole that was burned in the heart of their resplendently bright city. They’re grieving in the local churches and synagogues and one can only hope that they’re mournful in the mosques too, or at least stating clearly that the religious fanatics in their congregation are desecrating the values that their Koran stands for.

About the Author
Avi Shamir is a freelance writer, editor, translator and the author of "Saving the Game," a novel about baseball. A Brooklyn College graduate with a BA in English, Avi has contributed to the Jerusalem Post, The Nation, Israel Scene, In English and The World Zionist Press Service.