In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, people across Europe and beyond have made it their mission to find silver linings.
Paris, a city built on the impenetrable values of democracy and liberty, has, in many ways, already returned to the “glorious city of lights” we know and love, thanks to our capacity to find humour, compassion and optimism in the face of fear.
But the aftermath of the attacks has left neighbouring Belgium on lockdown, with many public places closed as the police carry out anti-terror raids. Among the national unease, however, locals took to Twitter to tweet funny cat photos using the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown to drown out users tweeting details of a police operation last night. I challenge you not to smile at the photos of the “200mph Hovercat” which is supposedly being ridden through Brussels’ streets in search of terrorism.
Mourners visiting the vigils to lay flowers at the scenes of horror they will never forget, a man whose wife was murdered in cold blood releasing a statement saying that his son will be raised in love and Isis will never have the satisfaction of their hatred – these are the individuals building Paris, and Europe, back up.
Then there’s the queues of people waiting to give blood for the hundreds of victims still in hospital, fighting for their lives, and the stories of Parisians going out and enjoying life as normal, with no less vigour than before. There are the Muslim organisations who held silences across the world during their Friday prayers in an act of international solidarity. There are those who chose to light up monuments with the colours of the French flag, those who stood at vigils in Trafalgar Square and beyond, those who lay flowers outside the Bataclan.
Russia sent French police a German Shepard puppy following the death of one of their service dogs in a police raid targeting suspects last week.
And Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that lost 11 members of staff to the terrorist attacks in January this year, responded fearlessly to the recent attacks with a magazine cover that reads: “They have the weapons. F*** them, we have the champagne”.
In Paris and beyond, the Jewish community, musicians such as Adele, celebrated cartoonists, world leaders, artists and countless local groups across the UK have also reached out to celebrate the values and morals that we hold dear, together.
Last week the internet sent floods of praise in the direction of broadcaster Andrew Neil for his speech, where he listed some of France’s finest cultural achievements, including Daft Punk and crème brulee, and said “a bunch of loser jihadists” was no match for the country.
“In a thousand year's time, Paris, that glorious city of lights, will still be shining bright, as will every other city,” he continued.
Public discourse in the aftermath of such an atrocity can be overwhelming, the contradictory conclusions drawn can be alienating, and how we channel our own grief, especially through the internet, becomes a moral minefield.
The overriding mood, in Paris and across the world, is one of determined optimism, a resistance to division and fear. It is heartening to see so many stand against giving the terrorists what they want.
Being reminded of the universal defiance, resolve and courage that the majority of humankind has in its weaponry is a silver lining in a time of enormous grief. And watching Europe bounce back from the threat of all-consuming hatred is enough to make you smile – however briefly.
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