12/14/15, Peace

Hi Everyone,

Everybody is getting ready for the holidays in one form or another, and not to put a damper on the holiday spirit, after recent attacks and violence, it has added another layer of concern to our usual activities. Maybe because I live in France half the year, I’m more sensitive to it, but even in the US, there have been frequent and constant bouts of violence this year, sometimes politically inspired, and sometimes by a disturbed person who went unnoticed, or was thought to be harmless, until they go berserk in a public place and leave a tragedy in their wake.

It is soooo disturbing to read the news right now. It isn’t commonplace yet, and we’re all still shocked at the senselessness of it, but it feels like every day we’re hearing about these events. The tragic recent attacks in Paris, which left 130 dead and 350 severely injured, the heartbreaking attack in San Bernardino, which killed 14 and 18 injured. Another shooting in Michigan….one in Wisconsin. A man went berserk on a London subway and stabbed 3 people. How are we supposed to behave after that? What are we supposed to think? How do you protect yourself or your kids? Do we just act like nothing happened? Do we stay home? Avoid certain public situations? Or try not to think about it? How are we supposed to behave??

British authorities issued a statement after the subway stabbing, telling people “Not to let the incident affect their behaviour”. That sounds good for public morale—but really? If I were riding a subway in London now, there is no way that I wouldn’t think of it, and not worry that some lunatic would want to do a copycat event. Further on in the British statement, it said “We cannot let these people dominate our space”. It’s a noble thought, but right now, in every country there are random acts of incredible violence with tragic results. The people who commit these crimes are not dominating our space, but they are sorely affecting our lives.

I don’t have the answers to these questions either, but they cross my mind every day. The French are being incredibly brave in the aftermath of the November 13 attacks, just as they were after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. They are determined NOT to let fear take over their lives. They seem to be making a point of taking the Metro (the subway), and doing the things they did before. It’s noble, and in some ways admirable, but is it crazy NOT to change our behaviour—-or is there no way to protect ourselves from these attacks, so we might as well go about our lives in the same ways we did before? I suspect that some middle ground is more reasonable. I had dinner with 3 friends in Paris recently. They wanted to go to a restaurant, and dancing afterwards. I met them for dinner, and I love to dance, but there is NO way I was going to go downstairs into some nightclub where exactly the same scenario could happen as a few weeks ago: where a room full of unsuspecting, innocent people in a confined space could be taken hostage. They thought I was being silly when I said I wouldn’t go to the disco with them (and they went without me), but it just seemed stupid to me to take the risk. It just wasn’t worth it to me to take the chance, even if it might have been fun, and there was a good chance that nothing would happen (and nothing did, they called the next day to tell me they danced til 3 am. But honestly, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and would have been worried). I met them at a restaurant, where 2 guards were posted outside, it was a friendly little bistro, in a street of many restaurants and bars, where young people were congregating on the street, talking and laughing, meeting friends and bar hopping and eating in the restaurants, and it reminded me again of the street where tragedy struck on November 13th. Had bad people/attackers showed up they could have ravaged the street and killed hundreds of people within minutes. I couldn’t help think of it as I left and saw the throngs of young people standing around outside.

There are just some places I don’t want to go right now, in any city, still feeling raw and uneasy after the recent attacks. Movie houses seem very vulnerable to me, again a group of unsuspecting people in a confined space, where attackers could hold them hostage within minutes. Big department stores, major sporting events, where an attack would draw much attention and take a high toll. It just doesn’t seem smart to me to be hanging out in places like that right now. And yet if we don’t, and we’re cautious, then the ‘bad guys’ have won, and have changed our lives. But they have anyway. I have my heart in my mouth now when my kids go to big public events. But they still do, and I do some of it myself. And it’s not just happening in big, well known cities. Who could possibly have expected an attack of any kind in San Bernardino?…..Michigan….Wisconsin. And you can avoid all the sporting events you want, and go to a Mac Donald’s for a cup of coffee, or any other fast food restaurant, and have some lunatic open fire. We can’t stay home in bed under the covers, but I think we need to be sensible too. A discotheque in Paris doesn’t feel like a good idea right now, congregating in the street smoking and talking doesn’t seem smart either. Not right now, until the world returns to a semblance of sanity again. And when will that be? Paris ‘terraces’ outside restaurants are always crowded with smokers, and I notice that now the terraces are not so populated. If something unfortunate happens, the people sitting on the terrace are going to be hit before anyone else inside, just as they were only a few weeks ago.

It feels brave and noble the way the French are reacting going on about their lives, but I do think we also need to be smart and careful, and think twice right now about what we’re doing. As much as we may want to, we can’t pretend that this isn’t happening. It is, and we have to face it, and act accordingly within reason. It’s sad that we have to think that way, and people say that there is an element of destiny to it…”if it’s your time”, but there is no point tempting fate either. As a priest said to me once when I was working on the streets with the mentally ill and the homeless in dangerous neighbourhoods, “the Church doesn’t canonize the foolish”. I think we need to be smart about it, and think twice about the circumstances we put ourselves in now. Is it smart? Is it safe? is there an alternative? Do you really have to do that, or want to?

It made my heart ache to hear that the government and medical agencies in France are doing ‘rehearsals’ of how to provide the best medical aid in the event of school shootings that would involve children. I hope that never happens, and they are smart to provide for it and be prepared, but what a tragedy that we have to think about that now as a real possibility, and part of daily life.

It seems odd too that there seem to be ‘fashions’ or trends in violence. When I was very young, planes were sometimes hijacked to Cuba, with all the passengers on them, or to other locations. No one does that anymore. But now these violent and random attacks on public places are the current high-risk situation. And it’s impossible to predict where the next one will be. A supermarket? A parking lot? A church? A movie theater?

I was startled when I went to a very high end store in Paris, in an excellent and theoretically safe neighbourhood, and two security guards were standing outside the front door, one to look into everyone’s purse or whatever bag they were carrying, while the other made you open your coat wide so you could show that you weren’t armed. And once inside the doors, 2 more security guards repeated the procedure. And 6 more guards were cruising around the store observing shoppers. I think they were smart to do it, none of us want to be the victims of people who want 30 seconds of fame when they kill innocent people in a random location.

We have to go on living our lives, but I think we need to be smart about it too, as best we can be.I hope with all my heart that the violence will stop, that we won’t be reading about these tragedies almost daily. This year, the notion of peace seems all the more meaningful, for everyone, in every country, in all parts of the globe and in our daily lives. Let’s hope that in the new year we see and experience less violence. We all need to feel safe as we go about our lives, doing ordinary things.

Take good care,

love, Danielle

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9 Comments so far
  1. Tina December 14, 2015 12:04 pm

    I was at boarding school when 11th sept. took place. We had just gotten from a class, to my room when someone from my corridor said “I fear that we will have a WW# soon”. Untill the lastest Paris attack, I have been thinking of that every now and then, and now it strikes me, that we in fact have a some kind of WW even its not official – and have been that since 2001 – because we allover the world are fighting a common enemy: Terroism.

    In different shapes, but its Terroism, no matter how u turn it around.

  2. Janine Hewitt December 14, 2015 1:19 pm

    Hi Danielle. Yes, it seems as if we have a new “normal” in society now because of terrorism. I think if you were uncomfortable in going to a crowded,
    vulnerable place, you shouldn’t go. You wouldn’t have enjoyed yourself. People’s sensitivities to these horrible events are different. What is a risk to some seems silly to others. Everyone has to respect their own and others’ comfort levels in any given situation in modern society, and wanting to protect themselves. I think that is totally fine and acceptable. Many of us take these awful attacks ,very personally. For a long time we carry it with us. We can’t help but immerse ourselves in it. We are sensitive souls. God Bless.

  3. Patrick December 15, 2015 12:39 am

    How to remain insensible in such an article and not answer it!? Impossible but long and difficult because, inevitably, the answers can influence the readers. I takes the necessary step back, I take time. Thank you for giving me a little! Continue to share with us your thoughts, to upset us, to disturb us, to question us and thus to force us to deserve and to appreciate the luck which we have to be alive!

  4. J-C December 15, 2015 6:39 am

    How are we supposed to behave after that (1)?
    Admitting / understanding that our country is at war against terrorists, kill our soldiers home and that therefore liable to share their responses. I think this awareness makes us more caution and vigilance.

    What are we supposed to think? (2)
    We think that you will, in terms of its culture, its experience, its religious and philosophical sensibilities. We can not be concerned, you can put in the place of the victims and their families, we can consider that there are leaders … often installed in impunity. We can also consider qu’incompétents or / and understaffed, they are therefore irresponsible.

    How do you or do you protect your children (3)?
    Avoiding, if possible, places, times and events in number, high risk.

    Do we simply act as if nothing happened (4)?
    The answer is “no”, never. I think we should act keeping in mind and referring to the horror of the Holocaust, September 11, Charlie Weekly, November 13 wild killings in the US and UK.

    Should we stay home (5)?

    Avoid certain public situations (6)?
    Those which do not have suitable security.

    Or try not to think about it? (7)
    The answer is very personal. I think, when thinking of taking the right decisions (cf. 1, 3, 4, 6 earlier), do not live in fear, anxiety, panic avoided if possible, they diminish us and prevent them from being happy.

  5. Antoinette Vella December 15, 2015 7:49 am

    Let us all do our little bit and make our world a better place.
    As Blessed Mother Theresa said,
    We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love.

    Wishing you all a joyful Christmas and peaceful New Year 2016

  6. Rob Scott December 15, 2015 12:39 pm

    This song came to me after reading your post and seems appropriate to share a portion of it here.

    I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
    You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
    May you never take one single breath for granted
    God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
    I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
    Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
    Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
    And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

    I hope you dance
    I hope you dance

    I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
    Never settle for the path of least resistance
    Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
    Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
    Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
    When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
    Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
    And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

    I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
    I hope you dance

    Lee Ann Womack – I Hope You Dance Lyrics


  7. Lorraine December 15, 2015 3:39 pm

    Wishing you and your family a peaceful, safe New Year ahead Danielle.
    Thanks for all your books.



  8. Euna Chawatama December 16, 2015 4:32 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    I understand your fears, it’s natural to feel so. When I was four years old more than three decades ago, I remember receiving armed British soldiers at our little village and one of the soldiers asked: “Where is the terrorist?” At that time I did not understand the term terrorist nor my little friends. We were the only children who were left behind in that village, so we looked at each other and then stared back at the soldiers. The soldiers left. But, as I grew up I came to understand that the people who were labelled terrorist in my country were freedom fighters, the sons of the soil, going on guerilla war fare with Ian Smith regime, fighting for the imbalances. And I thought that will be the last time I will hear the word terrorist. No ways terrorist it’s a haunting name..it will keep on haunting people for generations. In the middle east it’s their daily portion, nowhere to turn, it’s blood everywhere… Day and night I pray for peace to prevail.

  9. Kerri December 24, 2015 8:58 am

    I went to college in Washington, DC and I was there on 9/11/01. What I’ve learned from that day is that evil people will always find a way to hurt us, but as we all have only one life to live, we cannot completely shut off ourselves from the realities and divorce ourselves from the good things that are happening in our lives. We all have to go on with our lives, but at the same time be vigilant, have some sort of protection, and follow our instincts – yes, even report suspicious activity or persons. That’s all we can do.