A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Last Time I Saw Paris

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay.
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.
The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring.
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.
I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.
The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay.
No matter how they change her, I'll remember her that way.

-       Oscar Hammerstein II, written a few days after the fall of France in 1940

My heart is breaking. Paris – the cultural capital of Europe, the city of lights, where every building is an exquisite piece of baroque sculpture – violated by cruel, naïve, and unfathomably dangerous true believers. Children slaughtered while attending a rock concert. People gunned down while eating their dinners. It's almost too much to bear.
If you've never been to Paris, do yourself a favor and put it on your bucket list. With all respect to New York, London and Rome, it's the greatest city in the world. And it has captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans ever since Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson served as our country's first two ambassadors there.
"If you are ever lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man," Hemingway wrote, "then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
Predictably, American politicians are falling over themselves to exploit this tragedy. And just as predictably, they're coming up with all the wrong answers and pointing their fingers at all the wrong people.
A lot of them are blaming the Syrian refugees, ignoring the fact that these refugees are fleeing from ISIS, the very same people who committed the Paris attacks. Ted Cruz says we should only admit refugees who are Christians. Mike Huckabee wants to use this as an excuse to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran, ignoring the fact that the only boots on the ground who are having any success against ISIS – apart from the Kurds - are the Iranians.
And Donald Trump took a break from his war on Mexicans – who, as far as I can recall, haven't bombed anybody – to train his fire on the Syrian refugees, saying, "If I win, they're going back."
It reminds me of what Great Britain did during World War II: It imprisoned Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany on the grounds that they might be German spies. None of them were, of course, any more than the 120,000 Japanese American citizens we imprisoned after Pearl Harbor.
It's only human to lash out at the nearest target when something like this happens, but is it wise? When Bin Laden ordered the 9/11 attacks, his goal was to trigger World War III between Islam and the West. It's a war that no one can win but everyone can lose.
Let's step back, take time to mourn the desecration of this beautiful city, and then fight. But this time, let's use our heads for strategy and our hearts for compassion, instead of being suckered into fear-based, impulsive action. The latter is what Bin Laden would have wanted.

No comments: