We were headed to bed fairly late on Friday, November 13, when my wife Jan decided to head upstairs to the computer and take a final look at the news online. And that’s when we learned about the horrors — the bombings and shootings — that were unfolding in Paris. It was not easy getting to sleep that night.
As it turned out, we still spent a pleasant and relaxing weekend. On Saturday I had an enjoyable aquagym exercise session in the morning. On Sunday we had a nice Thai lunch with friend Annie. And on Sunday afternoon, we Skyped with son Michael, daughter-in-law Vanessa, and grandson John. All good.
But over the whole weekend, we really did feel a pall of sadness, and we know that our family and friends both here and outside France were feeling much the same.
I don’t think that I have anything particularly profound to add to all the words that have been said and written about the vicious attacks in Paris, but I still feel compelled to put my feelings into words.
First of all, immense sadness for the victims of the Friday night attacks, and their families, and their friends. The violence was so random, so vicious, so pointless. I know that the families and friends of those who were gunned down will never fully get over their losses.
Secondly, sadness for the wonderful city of Paris, and for the tolerant, vibrant, beautiful country of France, which has been our home for more than five years now.
And finally, sadness for the future. I suspect it will take a very, very long time for change to come to the society or societies that have spawned the terrorists. These are young men (and some women, apparently) with little or no respect for life and little or no joy in actually living. These are people who are taught — actively taught — to hate other people and their views and beliefs.
What’s needed in those societies isn’t just “voices of reason,” as we sometimes hear. What’s needed over the long term are real leaders who can educate and inspire their people to accept others, to value the pleasures of life on this earth, and to take responsibility for their own well-being — that is, instead of putting the blame on everyone else. So far, I don’t see much evidence of that.