Good News for People Who Like Bad News

16
SPONSORED LINKS END OF SPONSORED LINKS

Over July and August, news reports are usually very boring in France. Everybody is on holidays, including l’Élysée, and there are no new bills to protest against. Seasonal pieces usually revolve around the Baccalauréat (the national high-school graduation exam) late June, then journalists are dispatched all over France to interview beachgoers (the water is invariably too cold), students working summer jobs (hourly wage is invariably too low), seasonal business owners (season is invariably the hardest ever), supermarket managers (best-selling items invariably include beach toys, water bottles, and ice cream) etc. Basically, people are complaining as usual but not over the big stuff, just the little things. Sports take over the headlines with the Tour de France, the World Cup of the Olympics. Once in a while, something happens—usually a major bus or car accident or a forest fire. But overall, it’s quiet in the newsroom.

Except this year. There was the attack in Nice, then two attacks in Germany, then another in France where a priest was killed in a hostage situation in a church. This is big news. France isn’t a country where violence is common. Shit happens, of course, but not that. Not for a long time, anyway.

It’s hard to know what to say. I don’t know what to say. I’m angry because I don’t want anyone to kill and get killed in the name of… in the name of what, exactly? Of course, ISIS claims responsibility of the attacks, all of them. But there is no clear pattern and the line between the act of deranged people and political action is very blurred. I think ISIS is ready to claim anything done by someone with an Arabic-sounding name. “The gunman’s name was Mohammed? Yep, sure, that was us. Ah ah!”

When I read that one of the two guys who killed the priest was born in 1997, I froze. Shit. He wasn’t even 20. He was a kid. A kid who had been brainwashed, manipulated. This is not political action. I don’t even know if we should call it “terrorism”. Nowadays, it’s a convenient label, but ten years ago, we would have blamed such tragedy on video games, and before that, on rock music or drugs.

To me, ISIS feels like an obscure cult, a serial killers club with weak wannabe members. It has little to do with Islam and Muslims.

I hope French people see it this way too. For each and every attack, we have to reiterate that Muslims, in general, are not to blame. I’m getting scared now, I’m afraid that French will be more open to simplistic messages like the ones delivered by far right-wing political movements.

The state of emergency was declared in the wake of the November 2015 attacks. I was scared of these three little words—what does it mean, exactly, to live under this state of emergency?

I’m happy to report that in Nantes, it’s business as usual. People don’t seem to be scared and hedonistic French are still enjoying drinks at terraces of bars and coffee shops. French are still drinking, smoking, laughing, shopping in busy markets, taking public transportation, chatting to each other, gathering to enjoy street art performances. I don’t find them stressed out or jumpy. I haven’t heard any hate speech, haven’t seen anyone being targeted. Of course, my perspective is limited, I’m not a minority. Besides, everybody is more relaxed during summer holidays.

Yet, I hope it stays this way.

Newspaper headlines the morning after the priest was murdered

Newspaper headlines the morning after the priest was murdered

Woman shopping downtown Nantes

Woman shopping downtown Nantes

Glued to their cellphones by the train station

Glued to their cellphones by the train station

Waiting for the tramway at Commerce

Waiting for the tramway at Commerce

Woman and her two kids at Bouffay

Woman and her two kids at Bouffay

Construction workers Cours des 50 Otages

Construction workers Cours des 50 Otages

Homeless guy at Commerce

Homeless guy at Commerce

Couple Place de la Bourse

Couple Place de la Bourse

Family having lunch Place de la Bourse

Family having lunch Place de la Bourse

Women walking by Place de la Bourse

Women walking by Place de la Bourse

Passersby Quai de la Fosse

Passersby Quai de la Fosse

At a café Quai de la Fosse

At a café Quai de la Fosse

Bicyles on the Isle of Nantes

Bicyles on the Isle of Nantes

People by the LU sign in Beaulieu

People by the LU sign in Beaulieu

Plane in the clouds

Plane in the clouds

Share.

About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

16 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    It is a good point. When the depressive pilot of GermanWing flew his plane against a mountain, killing all the passengers, it was never called a terror act, and yes, it wasn’t. When a guy did more or less the same thing with a truck in Nice, however, it was directly called a terror act, and yes, it was, but investigation showed that.
    The age of criminals is interesting, and always remind me the song « Mourir pour des idées » from Georges Brassens, specially this part (and remember, the song is more than 40 years-old, from 1972) :

    “Les saint jean bouche d’or qui prêchent le martyre
    Le plus souvent, d’ailleurs, s’attardent ici-bas
    Mourir pour des idées, c’est le cas de le dire
    C’est leur raison de vivre, ils ne s’en privent pas
    Dans presque tous les camps on en voit qui supplantent
    Bientôt Mathusalem dans la longévité”

    Which highlights the point you make about brainwashing. Today, the culprit is Islam, but along the time it could have been anarchism, communism, nationalism, etc. Deluded young people who are guided to commit atrocities in the name of something by cowards hiding behind an holier-than-thou attitude.
    In the case of allegiance to daesh, a little bit of history :
    I’ve met people from Maghreb of our parents generation who came in France to work during the 60’s/70’s. These guys were willing to do shitty jobs (and they were working as hard as anybody else, contrary to the popular belief) in order for their children to have an education and later a good job. Problem is that the crisis hit, and it become harder for Abdelkader, Ali or Fatima to get a job than for François-Xavier, Charles-Édouard or Marie-Ségolène, even with better qualifications. And these second generation had children who have seen their parents struggle, being themselves victims of hatred. The perfect ground to plant radical ideas.

  2. It’s complex, and layered. Sometimes I just give up on thinking about all this, that doesn’t help though; but then, neither does thinking about it.

    Whatever the complete truth is, it isn’t known to us, the general public; of course I am not referring to the daily (almost) attacks; I am referring to the atmosphere which has brought this culmination upon unconcerned and unrelated innocents.

      • Yeah, we talked about them, wondered, got unclear answers, illogical approach to solve the problem, ignorance to the problem, then everyone just moved on, at least the ones who aren’t directly affected by the attacks. It just keeps repeating, that is really the sad part.

  3. very well written,Zhu. Considering, now I’m thinking to pursue my study to your part of the world, it scares me a bit with the way I look and dress. really…what if some stranger throw me with something or whatever, or call me name…just because I’m a muslim (they don’t know that I went to Catholic school when I was a kid!)
    hmphh…

    but I wish most of the people I’ll meet, as open minded as you are.

    • I wish I could say it never happens, but that would be lying. That said, France is a multicultural society, less than in Canada (there are less first-generation immigrants), still most people are open. France really values secularism, which is why religion isn’t, in theory, discussed and should remain private. This is why, for instance, the hijab isn’t allowed in schools (like any other religious sign). Basically, we are all equal, regardless of background and religion 🙂

      • Martin Penwald on

        I disagree with the law forbidding to cover one’s face, but I expect that people interactif with me show their face. It is courtesy because in case of interaction, I’m more confortable having visual clues from my interlocuteur.
        Beside that, I really don’t care. In fact, covering one’s face is useful in modern cities to protect the skin from pollution.

        And whatever a woman wears, she unfortunately exposes herself to cat-calling, which is more a problem in France than in Canada. A lot of éducation still need to be done.

        • I have zero issue with the hijab, i.e. the veil covering hair. I don’t even notice it, to be honest. I must admit that on a personal level, I’m not sure how to interact with a woman when her entire face is covered but the eyes. But this is rare, both in Ottawa and in Nantes.

          • Martin Penwald on

            Exactly, that’s why pushing a law against it is ridiculous. It is just an appeal to right-wing feelings, and it is despicable.

    • Martin Penwald on

      Like Zhu notes, it is possible that it happens, but I doubt that it happens on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is probable that you’ll hear some demeaning comments, but I think the majority of people are decent and you shouldn’t be afraid of it.
      Moreover, it is not like what you wear has never been seen, so it is not curious and I guess people won’t notice what you wear.

      • Thank you, Martin 🙂
        I barely become minority in my life. yeah, I went to Catholic school, only 6 Muslims in 100’s students back in that year, but I still live in my country. I lived in other country once, but I was a little girl who barely care about life.

        That’s why it scares me a bit. Just to share you a story, when I cross the border from Salzburg to Munich by train, the policemen scrutinized my pasports longer than let say…the tourist from East Asia (probably they were Korean) just because I wear hijab. I only cover my hair though, from what I read, it is not necessary to cover the face.
        Nice disscussion. Thank you! I gotta back to work, it’s 10 am here! 🙂

        • Martin Penwald on

          Technically, you can wear (and not wear) everything you want. As long as you are comfortable with what you wear, nobody and nothing can tell you what you can or cannot wear.
          When you say that you plan to come in Zhu’s part of the world, is that France/Europe or Canada/North America?
          The advantage of Canada is that there is a real plan for immigration where immigrating in France is more complicated.

  4. Martin Penwald on

    A small follow-up about evil babies-eaters kitten-rapists muslim terrorists, here.

    The guy who mass murdered people in a gay club in Orlando was from muslim background, but investigation showed a few interesting things. First, it appears he was probably himself gay, which is a big no-no among religious people in the U.S.A. (And, yes, I wittingly write religious without further specification). He probably suffered a lot from it. Moreover, the FBI investigation seems to show that he was a steroid abuser (something that is apparently common among cops and security agents — he worked for a security firm — in the U.S.A), which is known to provoke agressivity.
    And there is that too :
    http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/new-documents-shocking-accounts-orlando-shooter-omar-mateen-alleging-racial
    He was largely demeaned for his religion and his origin, which has certainly build in him a lot of resentment (see my first comment upthread, that is exactly what I suggest). It is an explosive combination, which could have lead to the same conclusion without daesh involvement.

    And now, about the guy who killed in Munich : same thing, the investigation revealed he was fascinated by mass-murderers, and committed his crime exactly 5 years after the slaughter of Utoya in Norway by a right-winger. It was not a coincidence, and again, Islam doesn’t have anything to do with his behavior.

    In each case, we see psychiatric troubles in addition of an unhealthy surrounding, which can easily be related to the Sandy Hook killings in December 2012 or the Planned Parenthood killings in November 2015, but these cases haven’t been considered as terrorism.

    What’s the difference? (rhetorical question, here).

    In fact, it seems that even the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015 is not as clearly “islamic terrorism” as it looked (resentment against former co-workers could have played a role).

    I don’t condone any of these murderer’s motives, but the way medias distort reality to fit the collective imagination with pictures of evil brown terrorists is contemptible.

Leave A Reply