Lafayette (et Charlie, et Ahmed) nous voici!
Nous sommes Charlie, nous sommes Ahmed. Nous sommes juifs, nous sommes musulmanes, nous sommes chrétiens, nous sommes tristes. Et détérminés de faire de demain un jour mieux qu’aujourd’hui…
Last Sunday, several thousand of us who probably would have rather been in Paris, but were instead in or near Washington D.C. accepted the French Ambassador’s invitation to join him and other dignitaries in a silent march to honor the victims of the massacre in Paris last week.
It was also, of course, an opportunity to show our solidarity with and love of the French people–all of them, from the irreverent (and brilliant, and brave) journalists at Charlie Hebdo to the Muslim policeman who was brutally murdered while defending them, to the (also Muslim) “hero of Vincennes” whose courage and quick thinking saved the lives of customers in the kosher grocery store that was attacked on Friday. And to show our support for the millions of Frenchmen and women in grief and shock over the violent and brutal attack on their beautiful république, and the values they hold most dear.
So we did. We gathered at the Newseum (a museum of journalism) and walked half a mile or so to–quite appropriately–the National Memorial to Law Enforcement Officers.
Many of the people were French. Many were Francophiles. Some were just people–young, old, and many in-between–who were appalled at the attack on humanity in general, and who wanted to take part somehow in the healing.
Of the many creative ways people found to express their grief, their convictions, their love, I think I liked the ones about drawing the most. One little girl being carried on a parent’s shoulders held up a sign that said, “J’ai le droit de dessiner” (“I have the right to draw”).
Then there was this one, reminding us of just how far back our debt to the the French people goes:
Some artists, characteristically, used no words at all to express themselves. This is the sculptural tribute a friend mounted outside his home in Silver Spring.
And then there was this. Probably a good note to end this post on.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland. She writes about France for Bonjour Paris, France Revisited, and on this blog (you’ll find more posts on Paris here). This spring she will be teaching “A Literary Journey into the Heart of France” and “Parlez-Vous Anglais? Survival French and French Travel Tips” at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.