Yes, I’m afraid, yet grateful.

I’m afraid of the world I live in. The wars, coups and attacks, the people’s comments and political agendas, the omnipresent power of money and greed. Sometimes, when I stop for a second and actually read the news I’m reading I become the child at 8 who only wondered and could never understand. No, I still don’t. I get anxious and terrified, I could cry, and do when I let myself, about all the complications we put ourselves through when life can be so simple… I learned, like everybody, to live with it, to be grateful that for now I’m here, in a so far still privileged country.

Nevertheless, the knot created in the night of the finishing hours the 13th of November last year, didn’t disappear, but is only growing with every new brutal headline I come across. I’m stupefied by the fact that some people have to live with these kind of threats daily and still manage to survive, have the will to survive. I sometimes just want to escape to a cabin in the far-away woods where the atomic bomb will at least catch me unexpectedly, in the midst of my solitary ordinary joys.

I’m afraid of the threat just as much as I am of our response to it. That I cannot simply dismiss my mother’s fear that someday in the near or not future the borders in our precious little Europe will close for good, while I’ll remain kilometres away, not being able to reach them. Is it an exaggeration? That the far right will win and dreams of community end for good, forgetting about the faces of the humans we reject.

I’m more afraid of our reaction to attacks than I am of themselves. The violence threatens me with death that I have accepted as a part of life, not matter how (unl)awful I may find its circumstances that stay well beyond my world of comprehension. The policies, enforced in their response, are the ones that ruin everything I believe in and force me to live in a world I do not accept as my own. If the year seems like a Quentin Tarantino film, as the internet ‘joke’ goes, we cannot afford the same distance we have while only watching.

It was on a free music festival at the city hall when something crystallized for me and yes, I realize how narrow-minded that sounds. A day after immigrants got evicted at Jaurès, the North of Paris, with new attacks going on in Germany and Afghanistan, with the latest one in France still echoing in our spirits. Security was more than tripled since last year, closing streets around it, checking bags and scanning everyone at the only entry, leaving only a couple of exits. On the first day a few days before, I was almost enraged by how they destroyed our joy and left us with a feeling we aren’t allowed to continue our lives normally, cancelling some events for ”lack of security” and limiting others, although I understood very well why all that caution. On the last one, a certain view cemented in me.

We so easily bought into a perspective, a logic of culpability and punishment in their totality, including everyone in advance, because no one can be trusted anymore. We answered with more fear and defensiveness, only rejecting, just as we rejected refugees and are now almost ignoring their predicament, giving guards, forces of order for whatever they may be, the power over them and ourselves. Letting all that happen for our mere survival, not even freedom as in some previous revolutions, an inch or two of a protected land, stepping into a vicious cycle of temporary non-solutions where all eventually gets infected.

So, are we really going to let them win? Proving their point better than they ever could? Isn’t it becoming clear that running away from our own responsibility isn’t an option anymore? That bloody bandages don’t work?

Yes, I’m afraid, yet grateful. I survived the 13th of November 2015, although I was meant to be at the Bataclan concert. I had a place to go, a sanctuary when fear crippled my limbs and darkened my heart, clutched my stomach, comforting hugs and voices, childish smiles of sharing escape the next day when streets were still haunted. I saw Paris in the January of 2015 with its first non-political response when République was a place of hope I’ve never seen before, a mass of celebrating a diversified unity quite like no other.

I had my doubts about it then. Now, I wish for it, I wish for unity celebrating differences, a unity that doesn’t exclude in the name of a mystified We, in a world where individualities interminglingly enrich each other.

I wish for those smiles that occasionally welcome one on our adventures, journeys across the world, when our obvious distinction from the environment or just as apparent disorientation cause spreading hands of help and efforts of communicating, understanding even through the barriers of language. Those smiles of curiosity, born from that part of ourselves where we lack the resemblance and fed by the other where we don’t. I wish for those smiles on our faces right now.

Because it’s not about ideas and values and systems and political parties, in the end it’s about humans, personalities, stories, faces, eyes and smiles on the other side.


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