A Parisian response to fear
What do you do when terrorists want you to be afraid? To be closed off, fearful of strangers, and angry? To stay locked in your house, suspicious of others, scared of crowds and skittish of loud noises? Well, if you’re Paris, you throwing a mutha-phunking techno parade to draw in the crowds and blast out the windows, that’s what you do.
Because screw fear! Sucks to your divisiveness! And extremists can kiss my unafraid not-shut-in tolerant liberal western ass! It’s time for a party so loud everyone’s invited whether they like it or not. Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Animist, I don’t care, if you have eardrums, you’re at the party.
And who cares if modern music seems to have forgotten musical instruments, because for the moment all we need is the sort of gut-thumping noise that makes everyone feel the rhythm in their ribs and the beat in the bloodstream as our hearts accelerate to match.
And if it’s my tour group, midway through my Paris walk, caught and beached somewhere between the converted church and the place where the boy king’s life changed forever? Oh well! Change of plans! We’re travelers: we adapt. And so we hold off on the French Revolution for a moment and instead lift cell phone cameras to the beautiful and blissfully idiotic thudding of a techno resistance movement. And if that swarm is hefting bottles of booze to the sky? Good for them. Ain’t nobody driving, ain’t nobody fighting, but all of everybody is moving and defiantly alive. Tolerating each other, who cares how you dress, if you can sing, or whether you pray and to whom.
Paris is unafraid, and these thousands of hoarse shouting, public drinking, sexual tension exploding, uncovered, unashamed, and celebrating youngsters are going to make sure you know it.
Because Paris is a city attacked. Once by terrorists, and repeatedly by fear. A city maligned by well-meaning purveyors of information, and by loving and thoughtful individuals who are right to feel fear, but wrong to act on it.
How did my group act on it? Did they stay home and huddle in front of the panic-inducing television? Nope, they came and saw for themselves. And when I asked them in the Champs de Mars if any of them felt afraid of Paris, they laughed. The correct response. They’d seen for themselves that fear on this global scale is a packaged commodity you don’t have to wear. And shouldn’t. Because locked inside, it’s quiet and safe and dead and complicit. But outside? In the traveler’s world, the citizen’s reality, the truth of the shared experience? It’s doing just fine.
Paris is alive and well. It is not unsafe, and it is not dangerous. Nor is it afraid and lashing out. It’s alive. It’s joie de vivre. It’s all those hearts beating defiantly together, celebrating and loud. Can you hear it from there?