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.  


Jenny Woolf said...

This is a very interesting post. So much here that I did not know. Thank you. I think everyone in the free world is standing in solidarity with France.

DJan said...

I remember the days when Americans were not afraid of everything, but that is not today. Isolationism and jingoism seem to be ascendent and to me that does not bode well for the future of my country. I love your posts that teach me more about the history between our two countries, VB. Sending you lots of love and thanks for being present in my personal universe. :-)

Thérèse said...

Il ne nous manque plus en France que quelques bonnes têtes pour nous montrer le chemin et surtout nous montrer des moyens à adopter, des solutions non violentes. Commençons par le dialogue.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
Sadly, here in Australia we have been infected with the fear as well. And are rejecting refugees, asylum seekers and Muslims. Which I do not believe will end well...

Christine said...

How all our lives are changed by the actions of a few..... I am not due to go to Paris until December 4th so until then my email signature is -

2 Corinthians 4 8:9 8 Nous sommes pressés de toute part , mais non pas écrasés ; perplexe , mais non dans le désespoir ; 9 persécutés , mais non abandonnés ; terrassés, mais pas détruit .

Thank you for your thoughtful posts

ELFI said...

magnifique hommage!

Pixel Peeper said...

Another beautiful, informative post!

I still hope that compassionate people here will have the upper hand. <-- I still have that same hope, but sometimes it is so discouraging to see the news showing politicians so full of fear and hate and ignorance.

LOVED the video clip of the two soccer teams singing the French national anthem...brought tears to my eyes.

Cynthia said...

I enjoyed hearing about your grandmother and your ties to Paris. I think (and hope) that cooler heads will prevail and fear will return to compassion of the world for the Eastern refugees. While your statistics on Americans deaths are true, people respond more to the graphic images and the abundance of information on social media than they do numbers. I for one will be finding what I can do to help in my small way.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde - this is so good - giving us a flavour of all things French with a slightly different perspective - reminding us of so much. I love the Paris motto and am so pleased to see it again ...

Much suffering is happening at the moment - the world needs to pull together as you've shown us here ... with thoughts for one and all - Hilary

Carol Crump Bryner said...

I read this with much interest and also sadness this morning. I loved hearing about your grandmother and father and the Statue of Liberty. We do seem to be a fearful lot here in the United States, although I wonder if it's because it's the most vocal who express all this fear. Thank you for all your informative and timely posts. I always look forward to reading them.

This is Belgium said...

vive la France!

Amanda said...

History always repeats itself since we are not smart enough to either care or know the difference. I am very sadden by the propaganda I hear. I look at sunsets and sunrises, nature, birds and I am truly wondering how mankind got so greedy and selfish. What went wrong with us?

Rian said...

Vagabond, I'm new to your blog, came here via DJan. And I think - or possibly "hope" that what Carol said might be true "that it's the most vocal that express all this fear". America is made up of refugees... it is incomprehensible that we would not allow further refugees to enter the US. I seriously don't believe that the majority of Americans want this, but politics and the media are what get publicity. It is true that we must be cautious, but we also must never let fear rule the day.

Fun60 said...

A very good and interesting post. Without compassion to our fellow man we are lost as a human race.

Ruth said...

Some people seem to want to be afraid, because they keep feeding their fears, and it grows and grows. It is a sad state. And that is why the fearmongering politicians do so well. And so that part of our population is not small as it should be, but large and growing. I also hope that consciousness will keep growing, and Americans will become more enlightened about people unlike themselves, about history, about other parts of the world. There is way too much isolation here for some.

Thanks for visiting my blog posts with quilty stuff. You know we got 10+ inches of snow since you commented that snow would be lovely. I do love it too.

Shammickite said...

A very interesting post, Vagabonde.
I was particularly interested in your statement "in the last decade 24 persons have been killed in the USA due to terrorism and 280,024 have died victims of gun violence."
Americans who are scared of terrorists are definitely scared of the wrong people. But that's another story.....
The Government of Canada has pledged to admit 25,000 refugees before the end of 2015. They will be widows, women and their children, and families. No men travelling on their own will be accepted, to lessen the risk of a terrorist entering the country undetected. Other private organizations such as churches and community groups are raising money to bring families from the refugee camps in Turkey.

Mae Travels said...

The stories of refugees in the last 2 centuries is endless, as you have indicated. The record of accomplishment of those who were allowed to survive is so impressive, not just in the US but in Europe, but we can't seem to learn what's possible when humans are allowed to fulfill their potential. So sad that history repeats itself over and over. Your family stories are a remarkable history lesson.

best... mae at

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a strange and disconcerting time we live in....I often think of the Statue Of Liberty and how for so very many many many people, this was the first thing they saw when arriving in this country. I've always loved the words of Emma Lazuras---The Golden Door----Indeed! And I LOVE that it was France that gave this beautiful Welcoming Statue to The United States. The Fear Mongers and Nay-Sayers seem to be the most Vocal these days, but I too, like many of the people commenting, Hope and Pray that more people than not, will still be welcoming. Fear is such an awful thing and it makes us do unthinkable inhuman things.....Very Very Sad.

My father was a refugee, as was my Grandmother----my mother's mother....It is horrible to think of the many things the United States has done in the name of Fear.....Turning away people who looked to this country for their Freedom and the possibility of living out the American Dream.

This was, as always, a wonderful informative post, my dear Vagabonde---Your love of your home country comes through, loud and clear....The sadness of all that is going on in this world----the carnage----it makes one wonder what has happened to us as a people...I feel like the whole world has gone Mad and wonder if this is how all of humanity is going to behave now....Is there no turning back? I pray there is, but it's not looking very good these days.

Frances said...

Dear Vagabonde, this is a beautifully writting post, with so much spirit, history, and appreciation of what might yet encourage the folks who share this planet to realize how we might benefit from listening to and aprreciating each other.

I do wish that I could sit at a table in a cafe (perhap the one at which we have met) and talk and talk and talk.

Yes...I still do owe you an email...and eventually I will write it and send it to you.

Meanwhile, lots of love to you and yours. xo

Kay G. said...

I was so very moved by your last post about Paris and I was so choked with emotion, yet all I typed in a comment to you was "Vive la France"!
I learned the words to the French National Anthem when I was in high school French, and I have sung it during times of stress in my life!
Once in England, I met some French students and told them how much I loved France and when I asked if I could sing "La Marseillaise", they said , of course, and THEN, they sang it with me! I thought of that when I saw the crowds singing it.
Well written post, as always.

David said...

Vagabonde, Interesting and factual post! My father's parents came to the USA from Germany and I am sympathetic to the plight of those fleeing death and destruction. We need to be cautious but we should never close the door to immigrants... The Armenian story is one of the most terrible historical events that most people in the USA aren't aware of... ( dad was killed on May 6, 1945 and is buried in France) Have a great Thanksgiving. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Pat said...

What a wonderful stirring National Anthem the Marseilles is. It usually brings tears to my eyes.
We should always remember that we are all members of the human race, treat people as we find them and eschew hatred and prejudice.
Posts like this give people a better understanding.

Dee said...

Dear Vaganbonde, one of the reasons, I think, that Americans are so afraid is that so many politicians--especially the Republicans--lambast us with messages of fear and hatred. And so many of those who listen, are not critical thinkers. They've never been taught to think that way. And so they accept the sound-bites and the racial and ethnic slurs as truth.

I'm glad that you were raised in France and so can see this country--USA--more clearly than many of us who were born here. Thank you.


Christine said...

This is a wonderful post and inspiring about accepting refugees.

Sally Wessely said...

Thank you for writing and sharing this informative and interesting post.

claude said...

Magnifique publication, Vagabonde, magnifique hommage ! La Marseillaise dans le stade en Angleterre était super émouvante. J'aime bien la phonétique. J'aime bien aussi l'anecdote d'Alexandrine. J'irai à Paris au printemps.
Il va peut-être falloir que nos politiques prennent ces évènement au sérieux et fassent en sorte que l'on puisse vivre en paix dans ce pays.

Jeanie said...

Another fascinating post, VB, with lots I didn't know and some beautiful reminders of the Parisian people and their strength. I especially appreciate your printing the words and phonetic spelling of Le Marselliese (sp, sorry). I'm going to copy those and learn them!

The refugee issue and xenophobia here in the U.S. deeply distresses me and the whole scenario reminds me all too much of WWII -- very scary. There are more than a few politicians I would like to throttle now. I know a bad guy could enter the country this way, but we are in no shortage of bad guys as it is and to be kind and humane to those facing such terrible situations seems more important. Maybe I would feel differently if/when the tragedy hits closer to home. I know one day it will. But right now I am at a loss and embarrassed for the USA.

Vicki Lane said...

What a wonderful post! I hate the way that fear is consuming so much of the USA. My fear is that it is being manipulated for political ends.

Ginnie Hart said...

Don't even get me started, Vagabonde!!! I think you know where I stand on these "issues" splashing the front pages of the USA news these days. Yesterday I found a very helpful article that I relate to and think you'll appreciate it, coming from me:

EG CameraGirl said...

Thank you for this thought-provoking post!

Tamago said...

Such a wonderful, interesting post!

BeachGypsy said... reader here. I am enjoying your blog very much! So many interesting topics and locations to look at and learn about...thank you for sharing! I blog from beautiful Charleston south Carolina and invite you to come visit my blog if you like

DeniseinVA said...

A very intelligentl and thought provoking post. I need to read this again and will bookmark it for a return visit. Thank you Vagabonde.

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