Forewarned is Better than Forearmed
Tomorrow commemorates one year since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine staff on January 7th, 2015. I can vividly remember sitting at Café Charlot, lunching and working away on my laptop when the news came in that just a few blocks away at their offices in the 11th arrondissement, 11 members of the staff were gunned down for the sole reason that their satirical messages were insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and offensive to Islam. Two days later, the Hyper Cacher (kosher) grocery was attacked, adding more victims to the list. The following Sunday, the entire population of Paris took to the streets in the most massive peaceful demonstration I’ve ever witnessed or certainly been a part of.
(Relive the story from January 8th on Parler Paris.)
This week, Paris is hosting a series of solemn commemorations and gatherings to honor these victims marking the beginning of a week-long remembrance. Plaques were unveiled yesterday near the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo — one of which was inscribed “To the memory of victims of the terrorist attack against freedom of expression” and on it is a list the names of the victims. The most important officials were present, President François Hollande, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, several government ministers along with Maryse Wolinski, the widow of one of the slain cartoonists. (Out of character with France’s reputation for precision, Wolinksi’s name was misspelled on the plaque (a “y” in place of the “i”) embarrassing everyone and creating quite a stir. It will be corrected, to be certain.)
Another plaque was placed honoring the police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was shot dead while trying to stop the gunmen, a Muslim himself. A third plaque was placed at Porte de Vincennes at the site of the kosher supermarket where four Jewish people were killed on January 9th and a fourth will be placed this coming Saturday in commemoration of the an unarmed policewoman who was killed by the attacker of the supermarket, but in the suburb of Montrouge. In addition, a “Tree of Remembrance” will be placed at Place de la République this coming Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo is very much alive and well. The assassins killed some of their cartoonists, but it did nothing to stop their ideology. The suffering publication one year ago with a readership of less than 30,000, is this week publishing one million copies of a special edition to mark the anniversary. The cover features a bearded man with a gun, representing God — “One year on, the killer is still on the run.” I doubt the assailants thought the attack would backfire so badly. The slogan “Je Suis Charlie” and Charlie Hebdo became known worldwide within moments after the attack, propelling the struggling publication into stardom.
With the healing wounds of the recent November 13th attacks, the country is on high alert. Security, police and soldiers are out in force protecting official buildings and religious sites. Yesterday I passed down rue Pavée past the famous Hector Guimard designed Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue and had to step gingerly past a half-dozen soldiers with semi-automatic weapons. Sights like this are more the norm than not, not only in Paris, but all over France.
Does it make me feel safer? Not really. It’s just the sign of more guns and more potential violence.
Along with the news of the commemorations, we have had reports of Barack Obama teary-eyed while announcing measures to tackle U.S. gun violence, remembering the 20 elementary school children who were killed three years ago in Newtown, Connecticut. He said it makes him “mad,” but clearly it also makes him “sad” that Congress won’t stand up against the gun lobbies.
Shockingly, there are more than 300 million guns in circulation in the U.S. — 112.6 per 100,000 residents according to wikipedia.org/ — that’s more than there is population. France claims 19 million, or 31.2 by comparison and most are hunting guns. Death by firearms is 10.64 per 100,000 compared to France with 2.83 (wikipedia.org/).
Even so, France actually is no stranger to gun possession, beginning with the French revolution. Hunting was a privilege of the nobility and a country with a strong rural and farming heritage liberalized gun usage. This is the primary reason for the number of guns in circulation in France, but what excuse does the U.S. have?
If you really want to understand it better, read the answers to “Why do Americans need so many guns?” in Quora.com. The article compares France with the U.S. because France is the second most armed country in the E.U. However, “The main difference between France and the U.S. is that to have a gun you have to have a license and part of that licensing is being trained and maintaining membership in a shooting club. If you do not maintain that membership you have to liquidate your weapons.”
There is also less of a ‘gun culture’ and more of a ‘hunting culture’ and ‘antique enthusiasts’ who collect guns from past wars. In the U.S. there is a paranoia associated with risk from crime and a need to protect oneself from others who have guns!
What are we doing to ourselves that we feel safer by being armed rather than not? Is it not obvious that with more guns there is more risk of gun violence? Face it, it’s a numbers game, period. I’d like to remove all guns from all our lives forever. Why can’t we use our intelligence rather than our might to thwart such attacks?
Isn’t it safer and better to be “forewarned” rather than “forearmed?”
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t miss the next Parler Paris Après-Midi with Emily Borel January 12, 2016. “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, BUT HOW?” In today’s fast paced, information packed world, where external stresses and strains and minor ailments are increasing, where we are always running, it’s important to find a way to alleviate the physical and psychological stresses which accumulate on a daily basis. See you there!