I spend a lot of time in the car.
I live in LA and everything is at least half an hour away — The girls’ school, their activities, meetings, training, friends… But I don’t mind.
You see, I’ve come to treasure those privileged moments with my girls.
Car rides seem to bring out some of our most interesting conversations.
This past week, not surprisingly, most of these have centered around the terrifying events that unfolded in Paris last week.
Photo Credit: By Passion Leica from Paris, France (Charlie Hebdo) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday was no exception.
I was driving Sabrina to school. It was just the two of us and my usually bubbly 7 year old was lost in deep thought.
Then the questions and reflections started pouring out
“Maman are all Muslims bad?”
“Why did they kill so many people?”
“There is a boy in my class who is Muslim and he is really nice!”
“Do you know any Muslims?”
Yes I do know many Muslims and they are kind, loving, gentle people.
“No, I mean the mean ones!”
My girls attend a French International school and our community was deeply shaken by the events of last week. More than a third of our families, mine included have a least one parent who is French. Sabrina’s teacher is from Paris and has openly shared her sadness and concern with her second grade class.
Paris is my home town also, the city that holds my heart, and though my parents are no longer there, I have countless friends and family members who enjoy life in this beautiful city.
I watched in horror as news of the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo came pouring in and reports that this was not a random act but a carefully planned attack flooded the internet and airwaves. As reporters commented on their tactics and gear, one question was on everyone’s mind — Was this an isolated event or was it part of a much larger plan?
Wednesday night my 17 year old attended a support rally hosted by friends who own a local French restaurant. Friends and strangers gathered together in defense of our freedom of speech and in support of the victims of this heinous act.
Thousands of Facebook profile pictures were replaced with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie” “I Am Charlie”, while the hashtags #JeSuisCharlie and #IAmCharlie popped up all over the internet quickly followed by “I Am Not Charlie” posted by those who defend freedom of speech and expression but in no way condone the work of Charlie Hebdo.
Thursday morning as I dropped the two older girls off at school they were ushered into an impromptu assembly. Members of our administration addressed safety concerns and tried to make sense of the senseless violence we were witnessing from afar.
My inbox was flooded with emails from our French consulate, the school, friends….
News of the hostage taking reached us, leading to even more questions and unease. When will this end? How far will it spread?
Five hostages were killed.
I remember bomb threats as a child, avoiding certain lines of the metro, and hearing of various hostage takings. But I can’t remember any other time when hostages lost their lives before the situation was diffused or the terrorist apprehended. Clearly we are in different times, more violent, ruthless times.
As the chaos continued and riots erupted in the streets of Paris, friends checked in on Facebook, Twitter and email.
‘It’s a nightmare here, but we’re OK”
Sabrina snuggled close and squeezed me tight as she watched with tears is her eyes. “Why maman?”
How do you explain any of this to a seven year old?
I don’t have the answer to that question and don’t believe I ever will.
But what I do know is that I am doing what I can to raise my girls to be wordly, compassionate and tolerant individuals.
To be curious and respectful.
To be educated and interested in what happens in the world around them.
I would rather not have to discuss the events of last week with my 7 year old but I choose not to shelter her. This is part of our reality, her reality, and she needs to feel comfortable asking questions and expressing concern and sadness. To learn where boundaries have been crossed and how to respond. To be equipped to make the right decisions when her time comes to do so.
One of the things I absolutely treasure about our school community is its rich cultural and socio economic diversity. My girls are growing up with people from all around the world and all walks of life. .. These are their friends, their teachers, people they love and respect. They have friends from Syria and Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, and friends from all over Europe and Latin America. And yes friends from all across the United States as well. Friends whom they cherish deeply. Friends they can’t imagine ever being without.
They don’t look at the color of their skin or their parents’ portfolio… They talk openly about faith and ideology.
They play, fight and make up again…
And through it all they learn that people are people, worthy of respect whether we agree with everything they stand for or not.
Photo Credit: Julian Corbett, Mobile uploads
Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as I witnessed the millions of people join the March for Unity that took place on Sunday in Paris, Los Angeles, and cities all across the world. And I am filled with hope that her generation will stand up against violence and disrespect of any kind.
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