It took about 36 hours before Facebook posts started trickling onto my feed implying that anyone who mentioned the attacks in Paris without talking about attacks that also took place in Lebanon, Nigeria and Baghdad, earthquakes in Japan, and all other manner of very bad things that happen every day around the world was a hate-spewing bigot.
The fact is, bad things happen all over the world every day. What makes Paris different, to me, is personal and simple. I’ve walked the streets of Paris. I’ve drank coffee in her cafes and rested my head in her hotels. I stood at the base of the Arc de Triomphe imagining the 24-wide mass of the US 28th Infinity rounding the monument and parading down the Champs Élysées when the city was liberated from German occupiers. I’ve stood on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower and marveled like millions of other tourists at a city that was already a millennia old when our own country was founded.
In the French people America found its first ally in our struggle for independence from the British crown and one of our harshest critics during the Cold War and years that followed. Here, now, in the 21st century, France and America are once again marching towards the sound of the guns and a foe who has stated loudly and often the intention to kill as many of our people as possible and drag the whole world back to the 7th century.
It’s different because on September 11th, 2001 the French people stood with America on what was the most shocking and appalling day in living memory for most of us. It’s different because in this new war the great democracies of the Western world must stand together or risk facing a new dark age sweeping across the globe like a plague.
You can choose to believe I think it’s different just because I share the same pale skin tone with many in France, but I know better.