I had an entire post written about it.
I strung together words about the welcoming people I met and places I visited in the city by the Seine.
I wrote about the art and the cathedrals and the sculptures.
I described the details of my enchanting evening in Saint-Germain. I wrote about the dinner I shared with new friends. The ambiance was palpable; the conversation, the food, the music… a night I shall never forget. I even got all poetic and whipped out my iPhone during dinner and typed a note about how I felt the ghost of Hemingway swirl around me in the cigarette smoke.
Corny iPhone writing aside, I fell in love with Paris that night.
I also wrote about the warnings I received back in the States before leaving for France.
The French hate Americans.
Parisians are rude.
Pretentious. Stuffy. Arrogant.
Tell them you’re from Canada.
I listened to the warnings and stored them in their proper place, the little file in my brain called “People Are Entitled to Their Opinions, Now Go Out and Form Your Own, Guy.”
But that all changed. No need to make up that complicated story about how my Mexican parents immigrated to Vancouver when I was a baby.
Now, most of my friends on Facebook have a Blue, White and Red filter over their profile pictures. Slacktivism at its finest. But who can blame them? We can all relate to the suffering caused by the senseless atrocities committed on the evening of November 13th. For Americans, the feelings were all too familiar. The disbelief and shock, the tension endured as we waited for news of another attack to break on our television sets.
I was lucky. I boarded a plane to Morocco the evening before 129 innocent people were slain in the coordinated attacks. My hostel, in the heart of Gare du Nord, was a five minute walk from the restaurant La Petit Cambodge, where fourteen people lost their lives. A new friend, Pauline (Popo to her inner circle), a vivacious Parisian with a personality that dwarfs the Eiffel Tower, was at the Stad de France with her boyfriend when the bombs went off. I feared the worst when I first heard the news. I relay my proximity to the massacres of Friday the 13th not for sympathy or some twisted badge of honor. I simply want to explain that I was deeply troubled by the events that place that night. I had friends there. I was worried and scared and disgusted.
Ironically, I found myself in the middle of a very Muslim nation, albeit a very liberal region, when the world first learned of what was going on in Paris. As you can imagine, the warnings from back home quickly changed tune. Anti-Muslim rhetoric flooded my social media accounts at a remarkable pace. People I respect and love wrote words filled with hate, fear and anger the obvious motivators of their prejudice. Once again, I was disgusted.
This site is not meant to be a political or religious platform. It was created as a space to collect my thoughts and experiences as I travel. A place for family and friends to be entertained by my words. To inspire a laugh and perhaps plant a seed of motivation for others to venture out and gain their own perspectives. The lens in which we view others, others being different societies and their respective cultures and customs, should be calibrated through our own personal experiences. This is the aim of my journey.
I have not been on the road for long. But I have been abroad long enough to gather that most humans are strikingly similar. Regardless of creed or nationality, gender or social standing, most people simply want to be happy. Through random acts of violence, terrorists aim to propagate fear and hatred. They aim to divide us through our self-righteous reactions and emotions. When we help them spread their hate, they win.
If, Antoine Leiris, a man who lost his wife on that fateful night can refuse to hate, so can we. I’ll leave you with his words:
YOU WILL NOT HAVE MY HATRED
Friday night, you took an exceptional life — the love of my life, the mother of my son — but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.
So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.
We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.