Paris is one of my favorite cities. I envision myself living there for a little while at some point if this writing thing ever starts to pay off, or if by some other means I can find the way to afford it. I have fond memories of the first day I spent in Paris, wandering around Montmartre, visiting the cemetery there and being pleasantly surprised by all the cats, petting the ones who’d allow it, then climbing the hill to get to Sacré-Cœur and admiring the architecture and the incredible energy of the city I could see from up on that hill. I remember buying a pastry in a bakery near Père Lachaise cemetery, leaving my camera on the counter and then several minutes later, as I was just about the enter the gates, being tracked down by the woman at the counter who only noticed I’d left it after a short time had elapsed, but who had assumed I was heading to Père Lachaise and hoped to find me. I have had only positive and uplifiting experiences with French people, even those times when they laughed at my meager attempts at French and graciously corrected me in perfect English; especially those times, really.
My thinking has been shaped in part by the careful study of a variety of thinkers, many of them French, notably Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. The French have given us a wealth of literature, art, film, philosophy, and music. The city of Paris has welcomed a long list of expatriate thinkers, writers, icoconoclasts, and personalities and has produced no shortage of its own luminaries in each of these categories. I feel a very deep and profound connection to French culture. Part of that is a reflection of my own individual intellectual curiosities, but part is due to French culture being so strongly connected with my own. The United States and France have long been closely linked, not only politically, but culturally, philosophically, intellectually, and even spiritually, in a vague and nonreligious sense.
I mourn deeply for what happened in Paris. I’ve seen some comments and articles criticizing people who are mourning, stating that these kinds of violent acts happen elsewhere and don’t get the same coverage, or the same amount of outpouring of emotional support and grieving. I can understand that concern, but the bottom line for me is that I do feel a deeper connection to France than I do to a lot of other places around the world where violence happens, and that is going to influence my emotional response. Would it be existentially ‘better’ if I were able to have an equal amount of empathy for violence in cultures with whom I don’t have as much of an affinity? Probably, and I make an effort to do so, but it’s not going to change the fact that when I see a bunch of people massacred at a rock concert in Paris, a show that if I were in the city there’s even a partial chance I’d wind up attending, that it hits pretty close to home, and I don’t just mean in the sense that I live in a city that is officially a ‘sister city’ of Paris. I mean that this is basically my culture being attacked, because in many ways as I’ve already noted, our cultures just share so much.