Why I Am Proud To Be French – Re-affirming Identity In The Aftermath Of Tragedy

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post, and to be honest it had been somewhat hard to think of something coherent to write about. I often get all these random thoughts running through my head, but not quite enough to piece together in a blog post.

Then Friday 13 November occurred in Paris.

The first that I had heard about it was waking up on Saturday morning and checking my phone, and seeing all these reports on Twitter about shootings and hostages all throughout the Parisian city. And I was glued to social media for pretty much the whole day. As with any major situation that unfolds like this, it is like a watching a train wreck – too horrific for words, and yet you cannot keep your eyes away from it.

But as I was soon to find out, this hit me a lot deeper than I realised, for a number of reasons:

  • These were my fellow countrymen that were targeted, so brutally, cruelly, and unnecessarily;
  • It occurred in the city with which I share a very special connection (in fact, one of the reasons I moved to Melbourne in 2005 was because of the similarities that it had with Paris, a city I had been to twice in my life);
  • All my extended family live in France (both my mother’s and father’s sides), so I also have deep familial connections.

I taught six classes on that Saturday, and somehow I managed to get through them all without completely breaking down. By the end of it though, grief had overcome me. And when you’re an Aspie, those feelings come on quite strongly, almost to a point where you don’t know quite what you’re feeling and how to best handle it.

Here I was trying to register everything and come to terms with the shocking brutality of what occurred. And as all my Facebook friends have seen, my posts have been non-stop. I do this so that I know that my friends and family are there in this time of sadness (likewise I have other French friends that are feeling similar to me right now, and I have to be strong for them too).

The below photo shows both my Australian and French passports. The latter is one for which I experienced drama after drama for a number of years to obtain, so when I finally got it back in June this year, my pride in my French heritage was fully renewed.

  
That renewed sense of pride is another reason why the recent attacks have hit me so hard – I am a French citizen, and that attack struck through the heart of all French citizens worldwide. Just because I was born and raised in Australia does not mean I do not feel any less French (the blood runs fully and strongly through my veins).

Tonight there was a beautiful vigil at Federation Square to honour and commemorate all the victims of the tragedy. I estimate there were at least a few thousand people congregated to listen to the beautiful speeches made, including from the Deputy Premier of Victoria as well as the French Honorary Consulate-General of Melbourne.
There was also a rendition of the national anthems of both France and Australia, and I can honestly say that I have never been so proud in my life to sing La Marseillaise. In fact, being surrounded by my fellow French comrades and hearing them sing as well was quite an emotional moment.

  
The above monument had been created when I returned to Federation Square a bit later tonight. Being that close to it gave me goosebumps, seeing all the outpouring of grief and sadness, but yet also signs of hope and peace, and the longing for everyone to band together and stand up against the atrocity that threatens every single one of us.

I will be returning to France in the near future to spend some time with my family and also to visit Paris and re-establish the connection (the last time I had visited was 1997, so it will be a long overdue visit). When I do that, I will share that journey with you all, as there are a lot of beautiful things to be shared amongst everyone.

To everyone who has reached out to me over the last couple of days, I appreciate and thank you all for your concern. It is very touching to know that people can acknowledge the grief and stand by one another in these dark times.

Before I conclude this post, I’d like to ask just one request of you all who are reading this – please do not give in to hate, but instead fight it with love and compassion. Hate is what the enemy seeks from us. It uses hate to attempt to divide and conquer those in fear.

But I know that we are all people who are capable of standing up to that fear and not letting it impact our way of life. We must not let this overcome us – we shall overcome it instead.

Je suis fier d’être français. I am proud to be French.

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