Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fluctuat nec mergitur, solidarity for Paris, and the Statue of Liberty

This is a continuation of my post of several days ago - The tears of Marianne, about the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris.  But first, I'd like to pay tribute to all the victims of the latest mass violence - the 224 Russian tourists victims of the bombing on the Metrojet flight over Sinai, Egypt, on 31 October, 2015 - the 43 victims of the bombings in Beirut, Lebanon, on 12 November, 2015, the 130 victims of the Paris attacks on 13 November, 2015, and yesterday, November 20, 2015, the 19 victims of the attacks in the Radisson Hotel of Bamako, Mali.  We are heartbroken and mourn each victim equally.  Below are their countries' flags from top left, Russia next to Lebanon and below France next to Mali.

The Paris tragedy hit me more because I was born in France, my mother was born in Paris and I was raised there.  I looked on Google Map and saw that from our home in the 9th arrondissement (9th quarter) it was just a half hour+ walk to the Bataclan concert hall where most of the attacks took place on Friday the 13th - 2.9 km or 1.8 miles.

All over the world there have been shows of support and solidarity with Paris.  Here are some pictures from many countries - Muslim women lightening candles in Mumbai, India, three candles blue white and red in Lima, Peru, a small Eiffel Tower replica and candles in Makati City, Philippines, a young girl lightening a candle in Asuncion, Paraguay, the old city wall in Jerusalem, Israel and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.  (Pictures courtesy Voix de l'Afrique.)

The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, was also sung under many skies.  At the England-France game in Wembley, London, on 17 November, 2015, the spectators and the soccer teams sang our anthem in unison.  It had been written phonetically for them, by India Knight, so they could sing it with ease.  Here is the anthem in French and phonetically.

Allons enfants de la Patrie                              Ah-lonz uhn-fun dullah pahtree-ee-uh
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.                            Luh joor de glwahh ate arry-vay
Contre nous, de la tyrannie,                           Contra noo de lah tee-rah-neee-uh
L'étandard sanglant est levé,                          Letten-dar son-glan tay lev-eh
l'étandard sanglant est levé,                           Letten-dar so-on-glan tay lev-eh
Entendez-vous, dans nos compagnes,            Ontonn-dey voo dan no campa-nn-uh,
Mugir ces feroces soldats                               Moo-geer say fair-oss-uh solda
Qui viennent jusque dans nos bras                 Ki vienn, jooska dahn no bra
Egorger no fils et nos compagnes                  Ay-gorge-ay no fiss ay no compaaaah-gnnh
Aux armes citoyens! Lancez vos bataillons !  Ozarm-uh sit-waah-yen, Lan-say vo bata ah-yon
Marchons, marchons! Marchons !                  Marsh on, marsh on
Qu’un sang impur                                           Kun son im-pure
Abreuve nos sillons.                                        Abb rev-er noh see-on

And this is the way it sounded that night in London - (isn't it moving?)

"Fluctuat nec mergitur" the old Paris motto started to appear in the last few days on walls and social media on the web as a resistance cry against terrorism.  It was also written on a large banner on the Place de la Republique in Paris.  (Photos courtesy Debora Ramos and Joann Sfar.)

 "Fluctuat nec mergitur" has been Paris motto, or maxim, since the 16th century.  It is a Latin phrase that means "tossed but not sunk."  This motto usually appears under a vessel in the coat of arms of the city of Paris.  During the French Revolution all coat of arms were abolished, including this one.  But in 1853, the prefect of Paris, Baron Haussmann, officially reintroduced the Paris coat of arms.  This coat of arms is very popular and can be seen on all city halls in Paris, public buildings, train stations, bridges, all Paris schools including La Sorbonne university, stamps, medals and more.  Fluctuat nec mergitur is translated into French as "Il est battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas" meaning in a way that Paris, despite adversities of all types is always indestructible.

The Eiffel Tower was not lighted, as a mourning sign, from Friday 13 through Monday 16 November, 2015.  But then it was bright again with the French flag colors.  The Paris motto could be seen on the deck of the first floor (Trocadero side.)  Photos courtesy Paris Match.

Parisians are not church people, they gathered near makeshift memorials and public squares.  The Paris city government had told the citizens to stay indoors but they did not - they wanted to show that acts of terrorism were not going to prevent them from living as they pleased, placing candles, flowers and other tributes to show their solidarity.  On the Place de la Republique, at the base of the statue were several signs with words in French saying "Même pas peur !"  (not even afraid) and France is not afraid, but very sad.  This theme was also seen on the internet and in several countries.

Parisians wanted to show the terrorists that they did not yield to fear, that they would raise their heads and keep drinking on the Paris terraces (outdoor cafes,) stroll through the streets of the capital and let their children play outside - as acts of rebellion, political acts.  Although I think it is a bit early, and their hearts are not in it.  Several #ashtags were seen, such as #Notafraid, #occupyterrasse, #Parisestunefete, #occupycomptoir, #tousaubistrot and #maindanslamain.  Parisians were not betrayed by fears and were trying hard to sing under their tears.  It's a feeling I recognized.  After 9/11 when people were afraid to go to New York City, my first impulse was to fly there, and I did, alone, as soon as my company gave me some time off, just some weeks later, in October 2001.  (See "A cancelled trip" written on September 10, 2011.)  I was given a pamphlet in New York - it said "Hate cannot win."  I still hope so.

On the other hand, I was saddened and surprised to see an international survey, a while back, showing that US citizens now were the most afraid from all the citizens in western countries.  I forgot exactly all the reasons of their fright, but there were many.  It showed that in the US most people (not all, thankfully) are afraid of foreigners, immigrants, refugees, people of other colors, races, religions other than Christian (super afraid of Muslims and Sikhs.)  They are also terrified of diseases, such as Ebola, scared to travel overseas, scared of some food, scared of plane crashes, scared of real estate bubbles, scared of poisonous toys from China, scared of kids getting autism from vaccinations, and much more, and right now mostly scared of Syrian refugees and Mexicans.  (Although I read yesterday that between 2009 and 2014 more Mexicans went back home than came into the US ...)  By the way, the father of Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) was an immigrant from Syria.  Here is Steve below as a young man.

My father was a refugee.  France took, for political asylum, more than 80,000 Armenian refugees after the Genocide in Turkey.  My father, an Armenian, was born in Istanbul, was considered without a country, and taken in by the French.  He became a French citizen after fighting for France in WWII.  I am not sure why Americans are so afraid when you think that in the last decade 24 persons have been killed in the USA due to terrorism and 280,024 have died victims of gun violence.  Almost 30 persons die each day in motor vehicles crashes (that's almost 11,000 per year.)  But two days ago, on November 19, 2015, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Republican party act to suspend admitting the 10,000 Syrian refugees that the US had scheduled to accept in the next years - France is admitting 30,000 Syrian refugees.  Below is a picture of my mother's grandmother, my great grandmother.  She was born in France in the mid 1850s.

Her name was Alexandrine Bourdain.  The reason I am showing her is because my mother told me that she, Alexandrine, a young woman in 1878, gave her savings toward the financing of a great statue that was being sculpted by a French man, from Alsace, named Frederic A. Bartholdi.  The funding for this statue had been difficult to achieve, so a large collection for public fund had been launched in 1875, continuing till 1880, and most French citizens were contributing, including Alexandrine.  To help with funding, the head of the statue was shown in the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878 - see vintage picture below.

Finally this statue, called La Statue de la Liberté (Liberty Enlightening the World) was offered as a gift from the French people to the United States and arrived in New York City on 17 June 1885, greeted in port by about 100 ships - see vintage postcard below.  I wrote the history of the Statue of Liberty in my July 4, 2009, post - click here to read it.

My great grandmother loved America because it had abolished slavery, and was greeting immigrants and refugees freely into their land - the land of freedom for all.  She gave the love of the US to her granddaughter, my mother, who was an active member of the organization France-Louisiane, and my mother gave this love to me.  But now after everything I have heard in the news lately, I wonder if the last five lines of Emma Lazarus' poem are still valid - "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  The Republican Party might consider adding "unless they are Syria or Middle-East refugees and not Christians."  My great grandmother would be aghast at how the US is being defined by fear now instead of "liberty."  But, as for me, I still hope that good compassionate people here will have the upper hand.

Addendum:  Speaking of a fearful and prejudiced public refusing entry to refugees, I just read an article in History Buff by Jake Offenhartz, a graduate of the University of Michigan.  He relates that according to documents discovered in 2012, Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank - whose book "The Diary of Anne Frank" was published after WWII - had written numerous letters to US officials pleading for permission to immigrate to the United States with his family as refugees.  The letters were written between April and December 1941 and went unanswered.  After Otto Frank's letters requesting political asylum were ignored by the US, the Franks went into hiding.  The family was later discovered and sent to concentration camps.

2nd addendum: It has been found lately that Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor behind the statue, initially envisioned the statue to stand at the entrance to the Suez Canal in Egypt as a Muslim peasant woman.  Encyclopaedia called the sketch "an African-style female figure" and the National Park Service, a bureau of the Department of the Interior, confirmed on their website that he originally designed a colossal statue of "a robed woman holding a torch, which he called "Egypt Bring Light to Asia."  It is ironic in a way considering the current attitude in the US.  See more information on this in my post here:  Statue of Liberty and current events.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris - Les larmes de Marianne (The tears of Marianne)

Marianne, the national symbol of the French Republic is crying.  On Friday November 13, 2015, citizens of France, and visitors to France were killed, 130 so far, 349 injured - 96 critically.

It has been very painful for everyone to watch the horrendous events on television.  My heart is broken to see that so many innocent people were hurt in my beautiful city.  I was distressed to watch these areas that I know so well, being the site of such hateful acts.  What has happened to our world?  Growing up in Paris I was never scared, rarely saw policemen bearing firearms - I could come back home alone at night and not feel I was in any danger.  Paris is a city to be happy, to be alive, to love, to understand la joie de vivre and not be afraid.  Paris belongs to all of us in a way - and, as I saw in an Italian comment "Parigi è tutti noi"  (Paris is all of us) the City of Light symbol, not the city of sorrow.  It was unbearable for me to see these terrifying events in Paris last Friday night unfolding on television - to hear the shots, the screams at the Bataclan.  Here are pictures of the Bataclan, interior and exterior, below.

When I lived in Paris with my parents we did go to the Bataclan - then it was a movie theatre.  It is an historic building built in 1864 to resemble a Chinese pagoda - a large building with a cafe and a theatre.  It was named after a Chinese type operetta "Ba-Ta-Clan" by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880.)  It had a vast hall for 2500 people but a fire in 1933 destroyed part of the building.  In 1950 it was modified to adhere to safety standards, and in 1952 became a new cinema with 1350 seats.  In 1969 the cinema closed and in 1983 it became a theatre again.  In 2005 new owners changed the Bataclan, holding now 1500 seats, with updated acoustics, showing mostly rock concerts, but also trendy comedies and variety shows.  The owners are Jewish and have received numerous threats from radical groups as the hall is also used to hold regular conferences and galas for Jewish organizations.  Well known artists have appeared there along the years, such as Edith Piaf, Cesara Evora and international rock groups with a large fan base.  Here is a vintage postcard of the Bataclan.

The Grand Chinese Cafe, attached to the Bataclan concert hall, is now the Bataclan Cafe on boulevard Voltaire, a large friendly place, serving high rated brunches, lunches and dinners.

The rock group, Eagles of Death Metal, from California, was playing there last Friday to a sold-out audience.  Unlike their name, the group does not play metal type music; they are an underground favorite, mixing 1970s type blues-rock with humor.  Their style has been described as "bluegrass slide guitar mixed with stripper drum beats and Canned Heat vocals."  They have a large following in France, and in Europe.  After the first shots were heard the band managed to escape the stage through the back of the theatre and run to a police station.  The drummer Julian Dono, an Atlanta native and UGA graduate, now based in Nashville, was able to call his wife from there.  Sadly, their merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, 36, was killed in the concert hall.  Below are pictures of their show in Paris that night, courtesy AFP Photo/Rock&Folk/MarionRuszniewski.  The band cancelled the rest of their European tour.

Francois Molins, the Paris public prosecutor, said that the attacks started at 9:15 pm on Friday, November 13, 2015, at the soccer stadium on the outskirts of Paris.  This could have been a bloodbath if the attackers had blown themselves inside the stadium, but they did it outside the gates.  Another terrorist team followed at 9:20 pm with shots to the outside table occupants of two restaurants, Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.  At 9:22 pm shots were fired at Casa Nostra, a pizza place followed at 9:35 pm with shootings at a bar called La Belle Equipe.  At 9:43 pm a bombing killed one person at a cafe called Comptoir Voltaire.  Then at 9:45 pm the attackers went into the packed Bataclan concert hall, killing the crowd at random - 89 persons perished.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Because of this, Marianne is crying.  We are all crying ensemble - together and grieving.

The French flag - the tricolor, as well as Marianne, embody the French Republic.  As an allegory of Liberty and the Republic, Marianne wears a Phrygian cap and first appeared during the French Revolution.  She symbolizes the triumph of the Republic and has a place of honor in town halls and law courts where she can be seen in statues all over the country, standing, sitting, as a bust or just as a head.  Marianne is a republic symbol, opposed to monarchy and any form of dictatorship.  She is an allegory for wisdom, reason, and liberty/freedom - she is the "Goddess of Liberty."  Along the years her style has changed as you can see below.

She is the official government logo of France and is engraved on French coins and French postage stamps.

Marianne has been shown on magazines, postcards, as well as on cheese packaging and ads for soaps.  Artists have painted her, such as the sad Marianne by Bernard Buffet, French (1928-1999) shown below, bottom left.

A statue of Marianne is also on Place de la Nation in Paris, shown on top below, and Place de la Republique, shown on the vintage postcard.

Thousands came on Sunday, November 15, 2015, to the Place de la Republique, to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks, to bring flowers and candles and show that they are not afraid of terrorism and stand together against it.  Parisians had been told to stay indoor (and they did not) but for a while in the evening, after a bottle exploded in a cafe, all the people around the Republique statue fled in an instant.  Photo below courtesy Julien Warmand.

I hope that these terrible events in Paris will not play in the hands of the far right French parties in the next elections, enabling them to obtain electoral benefit from this tragedy.  I also hope that governments such as France, the US, the UK and other allies will not start another large war.  It does not seem that the Iraq war brought much happiness to the inhabitants of that region.  It did not destroy Al-Qaeda which has been attacking for 17 years but has brought about the militant and ruthless ISIS (ISIL/Daech.)  The heavy military strategy from the West has not obtained good results so far against these violent groups.  I think more should be done to stop young men and women to join these radical groups.  We should address the reasons for their anger and actions.  When young people have nothing to look forward to - no job, no income, no power to change their corrupt governments, no hope whatsoever - it is easy for militant Jidahist groups to recruit them and brainwash them.  I don't see a quick resolution to this problem.  I was greatly touched though by the support for Paris from many cities across the world, as these pictures show below - at the World Trade Center in New York, in Berlin, in Canada, in London, in Shanghai, in Mexico, in San Francisco, and Sydney - courtesy CNN.

It certainly is a nice change to have our France liked here and abroad and not be the butt of jokes as the American Right loved to do, but I wish there had been no tragedy to get this result.  I was very moved to hear so many sing La Marseillaise, our national anthem, and see our flag shown in several places, such as in sport events here.  Louisiana State University team, the helicopter for the Air Force Utah State game and the Army game photos below, courtesy USA Today.

I spent much time on television and the web watching and reading on the tragic events in Paris.  One comment I read on the New York Times on Friday night by a person using the nickname Blackpoodles showed touching words of solidarity for our city -

"Blackpoodles,  Santa Barbara
France embodies everything religious zealots everywhere hate: enjoyment of life here on earth in a myriad little ways: a fragrant cup of coffee and buttery croissant in the morning, beautiful women in short dresses smiling freely on the street, the smell of warm bread, a bottle of wine shared with friends, a dab of perfume, children paying in the Luxembourg Gardens, the right not to believe in any god, not to worry about calories, to flirt and smoke and enjoy sex outside of marriage, to take vacations, to read any book you want, to go to school for free, to play, to laugh, to argue, to make fun of prelates and politicians alike, to leave worrying about the afterlife to the dead.
No country does life on earth better than the French.
Paris, we love you.  We cry for you.  You are mourning tonight and we with you.  We know you will laugh again, and sing again, and make love, and heal, because loving life is your essence.  The forces of darkness will ebb.  They will lose.  They always do."

I certainly could not add anything to these beautiful words. (Drawing below by Benjamin Regnier.)

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