The Widdershins

Activist Monday: How to React to Terrorism, French Style

Posted on: January 12, 2015

World Leaders, including French President Hollande, link arms in show of unity against terrorism and for free speech

Good Monday, Widdershins. I’m sure we’ve all been paying attention to the horrifying attacks in France by the Islamist State. I can imagine the shock and yes, terror that the French people are experiencing, and so can we all, as we’ve lived through it on American soil.

Our Dear Leader at the time, George W. Bush, reacted by crowing that he had “hit the trifecta” which he would need to invade Iraq, then exhorted Americans to show their solidarity by going shopping. French leadership has reacted quite differently.

More than 3.7 million people marched in the streets of Paris and across France on Sunday in a defiant display of unity against terrorism and racism, after the deadliest attacks on French soil in more than half a century struck the nation at its core.

The dense and determined crowd flooded Paris’s Place de la Republique to pay tribute to the 17 victims murdered in attacks over three days last week by Islamist extremists targeting French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police forces and a Jewish supermarket. More than 50 foreign leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa linked arms around President François Hollande at the start the march.

“Paris is today the capital of the world,” Mr Hollande said. “France is going to rise to its best.”

And it did, working in conjunction with several other countries to institute a special forces action to catch and kill the criminals. Just them! Not tens of thousands of Afghanis and more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Imagine if we had handled things this way after the 9/11 attacks. Imagine the Americans and the coalition forces who would still be alive and whole. Imagine the way the Muslim world would have reacted to a President who quickly caught the killers and brought them to justice. The thought of what might have been is almost too painful to bear.

But we must live in the present, not the past. Given the fact that we don’t have a time machine, I am living up to my New Year’s Resolution (so far) and finding a bright spot in all of this: the inspirational courage of the French people, thronging the streets of Paris in the millions despite their fear; and the French President, who did the right thing. Apparently, the people of France feel the same way.

The demonstration — of 1.2m to 1.6m in Paris, according to the interior ministry — has put the spotlight on Mr Hollande, who had recently been deemed in opinion polls to be the most unpopular president in recent French history before the attacks. He and his government are widely credited with having reacted solidly after Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo and Friday’s Jewish hostage crisis.

“Je suis Charlie” [I am Charlie], a statement that means solidarity with the principles of free speech and defiance of fear, is quickly becoming a catchphrase. Our catchphrase after 9/11 was “war on terror.” I think I know which one I like better.

This is an open thread.

Washington Wizards center Kevin Seraphin, from France, wears a “Je Suis Charlie”


12 Responses to "Activist Monday: How to React to Terrorism, French Style"

Well said MB! Sorry you don’t get more comments–Monday is my busiest day, and apparently the same for others. Right now I bet a couple of our Widders are watching the last college football game of the season.

Excellent and agreed on all points MB.

Here’s a go at it — Dubya as Sartre — I think I am therefore I bomb.

He always was da bomb.

It’s good to know that now that the Repubs are in charge of both chambers in Congress, they won’t disappoint in the stoopid, moronic comments. And if you notice, 320 people (?) liked it!

Thank you, MadameB, for this post.

Thank you especially for pointing up the contrast between what was once my beloved country and a country I lived in temporarily almost forty years ago.

Then, I was shocked to be detained by gendarmes for hitching from Paris to Chartres. Then, I was shocked when the gendarmerie stopped a perfectly normal bourgeois couple on the metro and demanded identification papers. Then, I felt a little defensive that every French citizen I encountered not only knew their own history, but were perfectly willing to debate its finer points with me, an ignorant American.

I remember looking up at the flag over the American Embassy at the Place de la Concord and thinking “That’s home”, consciously, for the first time in my life.

France has, since its infamous day under the Vichy government, courageously mounted a barrier between civil government and religion. It has done this in opposition to the most powerful religion on earth, the Catholic religion. I don’t think Americans until now realized how much courage, strength and integrity this demands.

Thanks all. PdxPat, thanks especially for pointing out the linkage between freedom of speech and secularism. The more control we give religion, the less we are free to speak our minds. In an extreme case, you see Muslims killing journalists and satirists because they can’t tolerate disagreement with their views. This type of murderous suppression of free speech happened several times when the Catholics were in charge (the Inquisition is just one example).

A true believer of any ilk does not question what religion says. I was truly taken aback when a Jewish friend of 30+ years declined an invite to my granddaughter’s wedding because she thought that it would be held in a Catholic church. I was equally stunned when she advised that the Talmud forbad Jews to enter a Christian Church. Go figure – I was invited to and attended all 3 of her kid’s Mitzvah’s – 2 Bar, 1 Bat. Never thought twice about it.
I’m not certain of how this ever gets any better if people won’t keep an open mind about one another’s faith, ethnicity, and/or thought processes. I do, however, hope that the French retain their solidarity and use it to work on their assimilation problems.

@7 Madamab,

The terrorist organization “Right-to-Life” was founded by Catholic priests in America. Their decades-long campaign of violence and murder has changed the laws in this country in their favor. I was recently threatened with a disciplinary write-up at work for refusing to go to their designated worker’s compensation health care facility, an urgent care facility owned by the Catholic church.

That picture of one country’s response to a terrorist attack, its amazing unity, courage and integrity, shows how a different response is possible.

@8 Chatblu,

That’s a good point about any religious zealot. However, right now in America, it’s the five member Catholic majority on the supreme court that is using its religion to take away the rights of a majority of American citizens, and it was that religion that used its unique status as a nation state to join with representatives from Muslim countries in 1995 to keep women’s rights from being written into international law. It’s the Muslim religion, with its requirement that women wear outwardly and at all times in public, their definition as objects of men’s gaze, that is the darling of progressive men in this country.

Any religion that keeps half the people in the world from any voice in their own government should especially be kept from influencing the laws of a country. The Jewish religion and many Protestant religions have changed their centuries old exclusion of women from their governing bodies. The Catholic, Muslim, Mormon and Southern Baptists have yet to do so.

Oh, I absolutely agree. While I am pleased that Holy Mother Rome is trying to be inclusive of LGBT, I have little hope that I will ever be included as a straight female. I make my point only that (1) my friend is a Masters’ prepared practicing Jew (but not a zealot). and that (2) she honestly believes that it would be bad for her to set foot in a Catholic church despite a paucity of any empirical evidence. Religion is a powerful influence.

Great religious discussion. To Chat’s point, zealotry can overrule even the brightest mind and enslave it. And Pat, you are preaching to the choir ‘re the Supreme Court Catholic fundamentalists.

I don’t have a clue about how to overcome the patriarchal fear of female power which is the source of all this religious insanity. It’s so alien to me that I can’t even understand it.


And preaching I was 🙂

Going back to lurking now…

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