One week after the Charlie Hebdo assault in Paris I am still feeling upset, angry and hopeless about what happened. I have been a journalist for so many years, I am very familiar with the work of my French colleagues at Charlie Hebdo and, during one trip to Paris, I even visited the place they used to work, their bureau, la rédaction.
I can’t stop thinking of my friends journalists back in Rome, in my mind I have replayed our weekly meetings hundreds of times and I have been obsessively following the news from the moment this all started as I used to do when I was a reporter.
Emotions are not good companions when you try to deal with such a complicated and delicate story as the Charlie Hebdo one. So I have been patiently waiting to feel better and be able to think about this and understand. Yet, I can’t let it go. The struggle to understand what happened has soon become the struggle to understand how to personally deal with this in first place, how to explain it to myself and to my sons who in the past days have seen my husband and me watching TV news and talking about Paris, terrorism, France, the banlieues, Pakistan, Nigeria and Boko Haram.
There are a million questions still to be answered all spinning in my head. Some very simple, almost banal. Others more articulated: how do we define the limits of satire? Did our friends/colleagues do something to earn what happened later? What does Je suis Charlie really mean? Why no one is talking about the massacres of Boko Haram in Nigeria? Are 2000 Nigerian deaths less important than 12 French ones? Did France create the killers of Charlie Hebdo suffocating their hopes and dreams in the giant peripheral areas of Paris? Is there a war going on, and if so who is fighting it? And where do we sit? The list is almost endless.
Yesterday I read Jason Patent’s recent post in this blog with lots of interest and I firmly believe, as he does, that empathy can be an anchor in this storm. But, considering myself an “activist” when it comes to discussion and exchange of ideas, I know I have to daily nurture empathy with words and conversation. Reading and commenting on the news is an old, well established habit in the home I grew up in, and today in my own one, but the daily rush that our intense lives impose on us can sometimes slow down this healthy process. That’s it, I’ve thought. I have to slow down, maybe we all have to slow down, and take time to read different opinions about what happened, talk with friends and colleagues and relatives about it, learn new point of views, give substance to our need for empathy. I am going to read and talk my way through this and I happen to live and work in an ideal environment to do so.
The UC Berkeley campus and International House in particular are multifaceted, diverse communities where discussion and exchange are constantly encouraged and promoted. I am going to read even more and talk even more and engage with different people in the hope to penetrate their worlds, to better understand their points of view, to better understand where all this came from.
Anger, fear, resentment and ignorance often lead to self-exile and generate harsh responses, more anger, more resentment and more ignorance. I truly feel it’s again time to get together and talk and discuss our way through this and I am convinced International House is the ideal place to do it with residents, staff, UC Berkeley campus and our broader community. Let’s continue to engage in dialogue on these critical matters and consider where this takes us.