I am French, and like most of my compatriots and millions of people around the world, I am shocked and saddened that French people have attacked other French people this week in the name of religion, killing 17 and wounding about a dozen others.
I am also a journalist, like eight of the twelve people killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack this week in Paris, and I worry that Reporters Without Borders’ freedom of press barometer already shows eight journalists death for 2015 and France joins the list of countries where journalists are being killed in the XXIst century.
But before being a journalist, I am a daughter of the French Republic, the granddaughter of teachers of French public schools and refugees of the Spanish civil war, one of them a Republican fighter. I attended some of the Republic’s schools and had the chance to grow up in a household where debating current affairs was part of the family culture.
Before the latest attacks, I was already concerned that our society seemed to be producing French djihadists who went to Syria to learn how to fight or, in the case of girls, being forcibly married to fundamentalists. Like many today, I am now deeply concerned to realize several generations of fanatics have grown up in our country.
I am especially worried because I have the impression the divide between the public and its instutions has never been greater, but also convinced we have no better option than stand by our Republican values to fight extremism and respond to the attacks against freedom of speech and secularism. Just like “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”, I think our free, equalitarian and brotherly Republic is the worst form of living together we can adopt, except for all the others. We sure need to constantly improve it, but I don’t think we should completely reinvent France.
Today, France is a symbol of homegrown terrorism, and some French politicians are trying to take advantage of the situation on the extremes of the French political spectrum. But thanks to the huge marches, I think France today is also a symbol of unity and courage.
Yesterday night, the French community in Austin and its friends of all nationalities and confessions met at Café Crème, on East Oltorf, in order to remember the deads and pay a tribute to the symbol of freedom and secularism Charlie Hebdo is. One of the persons who talked mentionned Dieudonné, a French humorist condemned many times for defamation and incitement to ethnic or racial hatred (on top of tax evasion), questionning the banning of one of his performances by the French governement a year ago. His point was that it didn’t make sense for the government to be calling to stand behind Charlie Hebdo after taking such measures against Dieudonné. Like many people in the room yesterday night, I don’t agree with that. But I really enjoyed the controversy that ensued, because I think we couldn’t pay a better tribute to Charlie Hebdo or show we’re not afraid of terrorists than by having a passionate debate in a tipically French way, following a minute of silence.
Some of the participants in the event felt the need to gather again, tomorrow at noon in front of the Capitol for a march. I hope many people of many nationalities and confessions join us again to show their solidarity with France. You can find more informations and RSVP on the Facebook event page.
I’m convinced that we can help the French people improve their Republic and prevent the rise of fundamentalism in France from Central Texas. That’s the reason why, with other French people in Austin, Dallas, Houston, El Paso and New Orleans, I’ve started the local group of the international French civic organization Français du Monde, Français du Monde South Central USA back in June of last year. We want to be part of the US society currently hosting while keeping to contribute to our national debate. I invite all the French willing to make an impact and all Americans and other nationalities interested in taking part in these efforts to join us by clicking ob the above link.
I am shocked, saddened, concerned, and even very worried, but I am still optimistic, and after yesterday’s gathering, I feel confindent that we, the French, with the support of our international friends, have the ressources to overcome the current hardships and take up the challenge of preventing homegrown terrorism. We especially count on the Americans to achieve that result, and Americans might benefit from our experiences. I am shocked, saddened, concerned, but also more excited than ever to be in Austin!