As a writer, words are my thing: they’re my tool, my voice and often my comfort. Writing helps me make sense of the world, to interpret everything that I experience (or imagine) and turn it into something that has meaning – even if only for me.
But right now I can’t find the right words at all. When I heard about the atrocities that took place in Paris last Friday night, like everyone else I knew, I was shaken and appalled. I took to social media where my Twitter and Facebook feeds were lit up with reactions. I read, digested and inwardly responded, but did I manage to put any of those responses down? No.
As the day continued and I saw and heard reports of the Islamophobia and anti-refugee sentiment the attacks sparked, I felt even more sadness and wanted to express so much but the words tangled themselves up and that was that.
And then I wanted to blog about it, but that wasn’t happening either. So I decided I wouldn’t – I’d just write my weekly #WhatImWriting post on a totally different subject. But I’ve tried that and it felt wrong too. I’ve had to ignore far too many elephants in rooms over the past few years and this particular one was getting fidgety and wouldn’t be brushed aside. You feel something: express it! it whispered in my ear.
I’m trying, elephant, I’m trying!
But it’s still not happening. I think it’s because there’s too much to say and it’s underlaid with so much emotion. And there are too many discussions and comments circling in my head.
So I’m just going to express what I feel most – beyond the revulsion and sadness that this could happen at all, and the compassion for all affected by it – which is that we cannot let them win. And any feelings of hate and mistrust and anger that we direct towards anyone other than the terrorists who took this vile action (and those who commit similar acts of barbarism the world over*), is a step in the wrong direction: they want to spread fear and hate.
So I’m going to focus on the outpouring of empathy across the the media, on my Facebook feed that turned red white and blue, on the cities around the world that lit up with the colours of the French flag. I’m going to remember the ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ that France has as its motto and the many billions of people across the globe who stand by that. For, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. :
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
*… because I know it’s not only Paris that deserves our empathy and support, but that’s whole other blog post.