Marching for Charlie and for All of Us

Many ideas have been bubbling in my head to restart my blog in the new year, but this week was a week of a different kind of reflection in Paris. And usually in times like this, I internalize what's happening. I rarely share my point of view or speak my mind. I live most of my life as an observer, and while this has its merits, I often ask myself why I don't get involved more. So today, I got involved and joined the march in remembrance of the 17 people who lost their lives this week, and in recognition of the values of democracy.

I'll be honest, I complain about France, a lot.  Admittedly, many of my frustrations come from life in a big city. A love-hate relationship is a pre-requisite to living here - ask anybody. But let me tell you one of the things that I love about France and especially French people. The French know how to speak up when something is wrong, and they don't tiptoe around it - they just come out and say it. They debate, respectfully, and often around subjects that are taboo for us Americans. And in the end, they don't take themselves too seriously. In the U.S., I feel we've become a nation where we have to choose every word carefully in order to avoid offending anyone. Indeed and without a doubt, we have freedom of speech, but it is very selective in my opinion. We can't speak from the heart, we have to edit it first and make it politically correct. I've enjoyed saying "Merry Christmas" to people again without an oppressive feeling of guilt that I'm offending someone by not saying "Happy Holidays". You can do this in France, you can make a jab or a joke, and everyone is open to a bit of criticism. It's doled out equally, everyone chuckles a bit, recognizing some of the honest things within the words, and they go back to being friends. And though I don't have a personal connection to the iconic figures that died at Charlie Hebdo, I still feel enraged at the attack against this freedom to really speak your mind.

Of course, the biggest slight is not against the nation or the ideals of democracy but against life itself. In this blog, I share with all of you my thoughts on various destinations as I travel around the world. But within all of these adventures, I've connected with people from all corners of this Earth and in turn, have constructed a beautiful tapestry of people that I call my friends. I could use certain adjectives to describe them - Asian, Arab, Christian, Jewish, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, feminist, macho (the Italians, I can say that b/c they know I'm joking).  I could describe them like this, or I could just consider what is the common thread between them - their humanity. They all live very different lives, but they have all showed me that we are all looking for the same things in life - the freedom to be who we are and a place where we, and the generations that come after us, can learn, love and grow in peace. In a matter that is very complex and complicated; it's really that simple. Now (when we all feel angry) and long after the drama of the events have died down, we should all challenge ourselves to try to recognize the humanity in everyone, everyday, not just when we're brought together by tragedy. We should be the example to others of acceptance, tolerance and freedom. All lives are precious. That's what I have to say about that.


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