Love in the Time of Colère

Flowers and a peace sign in the shape of the Parisian landmark the Eiffel Tower, are seen outside the French embassy in Minsk on November 14, 2015, a day after deadly attacks in Paris. At least 128 people were killed in the Paris attacks on the evening of November 13, with 180 people injured, 80 of them seriously, police sources told AFP. AFP PHOTO / MAXIM MALINOVSKY (Photo credit should read MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

It was the morning after the attacks. Thousands of miles away, a large breakfast table was crowded with Parisians gathered for a friend’s wedding, silently hunched over their phones. The previous night had been spent checking in with their families and tracking down their friends. One person’s brother had been a hostage; he survived. Another’s four colleagues hadn’t. 

“I can’t get mine to change,” said one beautifully disheveled girl. It had only been five hours since everyone had torn themselves away from the constant news coverage coming from back home to sleep a little. “It worked for me. Maybe it’s because you live in New York now,” another girl in the group replied in that pointed Gallic manner which contains a barbed remark if you care to look for it. Minutes later, everyone’s Facebook profile picture had been updated to include a French flag filter.

Yes, it’s easy to look at such a gesture with an eye-roll. But even the jaded cynic can appreciate the sincerity of an act performed by citizens who happened to be away when their city was attacked, who longed helplessly to be there in person for their loved ones, and who were desperately grasping at any way to express their deep feelings of solidarity. (Were she alive today, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross might be pressed to add “showing support on social media” to her stages of grief.) At the wedding later that night, people swarmed the dance floor to sing along when the DJ played “The Marseillaise.” The French groom’s father, a retired general, stood at attention for the entire song.

Since then, examples of the French answering threats with beautifully worded affirmations of love and hope have flooded the Internet. “You will not have my hatred,” wrote a husband who lost his wife in the attacks. “It’s OK,” a father told his worried son, “they might have guns but we have flowers.” These people represent the best of the human spirit.

As we head into the holiday season, that time of year when we are supposed to take stock of what matters, let us follow suit and be generous with our love.

From the Editor’s Letter of the upcoming Holiday Issue