It is a long time since I joined the crowds in France to celebrate a national holiday, but I remember the wonderful atmosphere and gaiety when I took my small son to watch the blooming of fireworks in the night sky, when the ideal of ‘Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood’ was proclaimed and reaffirmed across the land.
I cannot begin to imagine what it must have felt like to see lives, ideals and loved ones maimed and murdered on such a night. My own experience does not bring me close to such horror, though I have endured the interminable, rending heartache and the waiting for news when my child lay near death through an act of senseless violence.
It doesn’t matter ‘why’, though many will cry that word into the night, begging for an answer that will never be enough.
It barely matters ‘who’… the perpetrator can no longer cause harm to others, though many will bear the scars and the grief for the rest of their lives.
It ‘bears the hallmarks of an act of terror’… says a news report. It was an act of terror… though it has yet to be established that it was the act of an extremist terrorist. To those who grieve and to those who wait beside loved ones, to those who hope for news and those who know there is nothing left to hope for, to the orphans and the parents who hold out arms forever empty, will semantics matter?
The horror comes from knowing that this was no accident, that one human being could, deliberately, inflict such horror on another… hundreds of others.
Anger and hatred will inevitably fester. Speculation is already rife. The abomination will be used as propaganda by both extremists and establishment; the stories of the broken will be used to mould opinion.
What should be uppermost in our minds is the grief and the pain of all the victims. A determined refusal to become desensitised to the impact and sheer wrongness of the violence that floods our screens daily… a refusal to see our empathy and humanity eroded by habituation. A refusal to accept that violence can ever be a true answer, no matter what name we give it.
I doubt that anyone has the answer… but I know that change begins with us, each one of us… the shaping of the future lies in our own hands.
What can we do? We, as individuals, are too small to affect the fate of nations… no one of us can change the world any more than a single candle can illuminate the night. Yet a million small flames together shed a great deal of light.
My thoughts and prayers join those of millions of others in the aftermath of the horror in Nice… and perhaps, in that there is hope.