Sometimes I write because things are so clear to me that I almost can’t believe that the rest of the world doesn’t see it the same way. I write neatly, wittily, to a pre-planned conclusion.
Other times I write to find clarity, to make sense of the senseless, to find meaning where it seems there is none.
Today, I write because I am free to do so, and because that freedom has been so dearly paid for.
My three-week holiday has been bookended by devastating national events in the two countries I call home. First the Sydney Siege, where overnight, the act of going out for coffee became a fatal decision.
The hashtag #illridewithyou spread like wildfire across Twitter, Australians united in the assertion that we would not let the actions of one sick man translate into hatred against an entire religion.
As is the tendency in these days of social media, and the need to stand out amongst its never-ending transient feeds, it attracted criticism for drawing attention away from the hostages, still inside. For me, as a member of the horrified public, #illridewithyou was about scraping what dregs of positivity we could from a terrible, unimaginable situation. We could not help those inside, but we could stand alongside our fellow Australians, whatever their beliefs may be. Today, we remember and mourn for Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
Heroes who never should have been.
And two days ago, the horrifying, deadly shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The circumstances are different, the death toll, sadly, maddenly, six-fold, but the public reaction, hauntingly similar.
#JesuisCharlie, #NoussommestousCharlie flooded social media. And again, came the criticism. ‘What does it mean to be Charlie?’ the newspapers and blogs ask this morning. Does being Charlie mean putting your life on the line everyday for your work, for a purpose greater than oneself? If so, then no, I am not Charlie. If only I were so brave. I teach English, and write conservatively. No one is coming through the doors of my workplace with my name on a list. And yet I am scared. I am afraid. Of many things. Of noises in the dark, of never being published.
And today, I’m scared of returning to Paris.
Fear is the weapon of terrorists but I don’t personally believe that feeling afraid is tantamount to ‘letting them win’. I am afraid, but if in one of the safest countries in the world, you can get shot going for coffee on an average Monday, then that fear becomes sort of irrelevant.
This was not a post I planned to write. I had planned a playful, ironic summary of my Australian holiday and my feelings of sadness at leaving my family and my hometown behind again. I would probably have whinged about the cold that awaits me in Paris.
Today, my heart is heavy, my spirit low. And my thoughts are with the families of the fallen, and with Paris.