Posted by: Viola | December 4, 2015

We could have been in Paris…

We could have been in Paris, but we weren’t. My sister could have been in Paris, but she wasn’t. She had a European music tour scheduled from mid November and into early December. She was scheduled to perform in several cities, and Paris was one of them. She was going to hold the rehearsals in Paris, meeting with the musicians who would make up her band for the tour. The rehearsals were going to be held in an area of Paris near where one of the terrorist attacks took place on November 13th, 2015.

In October, my sister asked me if I wanted to accompany her for the tour. I said “no” but felt really torn. I wanted to go with my sister. I had been to Europe with her in 2013, in the summer and again in the fall, assisting my sister with her music tours and performances. My trips with her had been powerful, eye-opening experiences for me. How could I pass up such a great opportunity to travel with her again? I spent an entire week feeling down, because I simply couldn’t go. I mulled the decision over, and I told my sister that I was busy with my writing projects, so I couldn’t go. I also felt strongly that she should not go. She has had a busy year. Actually, she has had a busy 3 years or so, working constantly on her music and her acting.

A couple days before her trip to Paris, the tour was cancelled. My sister was not going to Europe after all. She was supposed to depart on November 12th and arrive in Paris the morning of November 13th. Rehearsals would begin promptly, with the band meeting that afternoon and rehearsing until evening. After rehearsals, my sister might have gone to her hotel, or she might have gone out to dinner.

That evening, in the 10’eme arrondisement, a cafe/bar (Le Carillon) and also a restaurant (Le Petit Cambodge) were attacked by terrorists. Even if my sister had not been out that evening, she might have witnessed what took place after the attacks. Also, she would have had to remain in Paris, unable to travel across the closed French borders to do her shows at venues across Europe. And we, her family, would have been scared. We would have worried ourselves sick, wondering if she was doing okay and if she was safe. And if I had been traveling with her, I would have been in a state of shock, totally terrified. Knowing myself, I have a feeling that I would have slipped into a deep depression.

As news reports of the attacks came in, I mourned for all those lost and affected, but I also felt incredibly fortunate. I had not been there. I had not been there to witness the aftermath of the attack. My sister had not been there. And all in all, my sister wasn’t going to be performing, she was not going to be at a concert hall, not going to be on stage, not going to be vulnerable if anything should occur.

I grieved for all affected, in a way that felt more real than ever. I know what it’s like to be in a concert hall, enjoying a show. I have been to many of my sister’s shows, and it’s a beautiful experience. I could imagine the destruction and suffering at Le Bataclan. I’ve been in concert halls that look very much like Le Bataclan, and the trauma of it all washed over me. The victims that night…could have been any of us, any one of us out for the night to see a show or have dinner and take a stroll with friends and hang out to enjoy live music from a band we like. It could have been me, you, any one of us.

I’ve written before about terrorism, wrote about it earlier this year (see my essay about Nigeria). The year began with terrible attacks, and it seems to be ending with terrible ones. But I can say now that I am shaken and afraid, in a way that I wasn’t afraid before. I know that we are all affected when tragedies occur. But somehow, this feels different for me; it feels like I need to be afraid, because what happened in Paris could have happened to me or to someone as precious to me as my own sister.

I feel all our vulnerability keenly. When an artist takes the stage at a concert hall, that is vulnerability. You step out there and share your art, that is vulnerability. When an audience member buys a ticket and shows up to support an artist, that’s vulnerability. When a married couple or a family or a group of friends all go out to dinner on a Friday night, that is vulnerability.

We all do these ordinary things, and we are vulnerable. We live our daily lives, and we put ourselves and all that we cherish (the people we love) out into the day and out into the world. We trust that we will be safe, that we can go wherever we want and do what we need to do and be who we need to be, but all this is only possible when there is safety and security.

The need for peace and safety is urgent and critical. We cannot live happy, joyful days, if we must always be suspicious and look over our shoulders, afraid of an attack. We cannot make art and share art, if we are gripped and paralyzed by fear. But the reality of this fear, this possibility of falling victim to something sinister, is all too real to ignore anymore.

In the USA, we are slowly habituating, on some level, to the presence of domestic terrorism. We are not too shocked anymore when a shooting takes place. We are growing to accepting it as just a part of life. This is heartbreaking. We are perplexed by the fact that every tragedy seems to reinforce the presence of more guns and the celebration of more rights to bear arms.

No tragedy, no matter how harrowing, seems to be enough to jolt us into doing something tangible to stop the increase in guns on our American streets and easy access to them. A shooting yesterday in San Bernardino, California, led to an investigation that the shooters had more ammunition in their home and on them and at the site of the shooting than most of us can wrap our minds around.

What will happen to life in America? And in the world? Well, it is changing for me. I think twice now, before I go anywhere. I don’t have to struggle to make myself assess whether I need to be there or if I can stay home. It’s becoming natural and normal now for me to opt out of going somewhere, if I can avoid being out. And another thing I have noticed about myself is that when I am out and about, I scan the environment for escape routes. I ask myself what I would do if I needed to get away or run for cover.

All of this kind of negative and hyper-vigilant thinking is exactly the kind of thinking I have been working hard to avoid. I have spent years trying to overcome my tendency to be afraid of new places and the world in general. And just when I have begun to feel happy in the world and able to live each day joyfully, I now find myself stuck with a new fear. A fear of falling victim to someone who is out to destroy others.

It doesn’t matter anymore where an attack takes place. Or why. What matters is that these tragedies be stopped. Or else we will be programming ourselves and a new generation of humans to accept this kind of violence as just another part of an ordinary day in the world and in America. Instead of learning about peace and experiencing true peace, we are experiencing trauma after trauma after trauma, individually and collectively.

Things have to change. I don’t know how. And part of me doubts that change is possible, but I have to remain hopeful for a peaceful future. If not for the sake of others, then for the sake of my own sanity, I need to remain positive. I need to not give up hope that something will be done to put a stop to terrorism, at home and abroad.

Until the world changes (if this occurs in my lifetime), I will keep busy doing the best I can to be a person who is peaceful and happy. I feel that this is a great way to fight the cruelty we see in the world. I cannot control too much of what happens in the lives of others, but I do have a say in what happens in my life, and it needs to be a positive say.

I make a commitment each day to being grateful for my life, grateful for being safe and protected,  being loved and nurtured, being able to be a writer, being surrounded by my family and good friends. No one can change my positive attitude and my profound gratitude for all these blessings. No matter how dark the world is, I will never (if I can help it!) lose sight of my inner light and my optimism and my blessings.

I pour into my being all the love and light I can generate. And I envision a world of peace and safety and abundance and loving-kindness and compassion and community. I spend time visualizing a reality different from what is portrayed on the news and what terrorists, domestic and other, want to impose upon us.

As I visualize a different world, full of laughter and storytelling and love, I feel that it’s already here. It’s already ready for us. It’s been here for us for forever.

A world of happiness is at our fingertips. We just refuse to touch it. Some of us are just choosing not to see what’s already in front of us. Some of us just don’t know how to look, how to see that this world has enough for everybody and that everybody deserves (has) a right to joy.

I hope for a world where people wake up each day to dish out joy and love, instead of dishing out trauma and terror. If terrorists and madmen and gunmen can dole out suffering, what if they doled out kindness instead and doled out happiness? What if they did? If people can lose their minds for violence, why don’t they lose their minds for peace?

Human history is full of examples of people who lost their minds for peace, who spent their lives showing compassion and kindness to others. These individuals were considered odd and crazy, no doubt. But they were crazy for doing good. But maybe that’s the hard road. And humans like the easy road. I’d like to see more humans choose the hard road, the road of going about madly and passionately showing tenderness and forgiveness.

What would such a world look like? A world full of people zealous for happiness and for spreading or sharing joy, wealth, opportunities, acceptance, tolerance, inclusiveness, friendship, artistic creativity and collaboration across borders? What a wonderful world that would be! ❤




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