This week, I’m in Paris.
As my mother pointed out, news seems to follow me, which I suppose is a good thing for my career. Besides all of the drama that unfolded during my semester in Rome (for a while there was no pope, president, prime minister or police chief!), the day that I got to England in 2013 Margaret Thatcher died, and my first year in NYC brought two hurricanes and the Occupy Wall Street movement. For the last few days, of course, all eyes have been on Paris.
First, my experience. I am filtering everything through the cultural barrier (Parisians are much quieter than Americans–are they handling this uproar remarkably well, or merely showing their angst silently?) and the lack of an international data plan, meaning I can’t be glued to Twitter as I normally would.
On the day of the shooting, I was around Notre Dame with friends and didn’t even know what had happened until I returned to campus about an hour after the attack unfolded. The majority of the rest of the drama has been outside the city proper, and our campus is not particularly near the Charlie Hebdo office, so there hasn’t been a visible reaction except the extraordinarily high police presence. Bags are being searched on subways and at major attractions. Our road was closed briefly last night due to a suspicious package, which came to nothing.
St. John’s is located in the Vincentian headquarters in Paris (cool huh?) and has multiple gates, a courtyard and a 24/7 security guard in addition to all of the special measures they’ve taken because of the increased risk, so I am quite safe.
In a more general sense, this attack is horrific and I’m very impressed at the worldwide response–condemning terror, of course, but also speaking out in defense of freedom of speech and human dignity. #JeSuisCharlie was trending, and then the NYT had a very thoughtful piece (among many on the issue in general) about NOT being Charlie, and it’s all been very interesting to watch.
I have a lot of thoughts floating around, on the freedom of the press in particular. Perhaps they’ll gel into something eventually.
In the meantime, I wrote this post/little essay after the Newtown school shooting a few years ago, which coincidentally I watched unfold with a roommate who is also my roommate in Paris. (We’ve been talking about current events quite a bit.) I think it’s relevant anytime a major media event occurs, and I always try to remember this:
The “media” is not one gigantic, evil conglomerate scheming to brainwash the public, most especially at the site of a breaking tragedy. They are people like you and me, with partners and children and mortgages and crappy cars, people who drink cups upon cups of coffee to keep themselves going, people who work on tight deadlines and low incomes for the benefit of everyone.
I would love to hear any thoughts on the recent events in Paris.