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Je Suis...

Back from Trafalgar Square, having joined my Parisian chum Oephebia for the Unity march. It wasn't a march as such, as no-one went anywhere (Brit police need 6 days notification, a two foot high pile of paperwork and the holy hand grenade of antioch to get this kind of thing sorted, especially around Whitehall) but still, they gathered down between the National Gallery and Nelson's column, the big man staring down possibly with a 'Didn't I win this one?' sense of bewilderment, while the big blue cock in the corner looked particularly pleased with itself.

There were many froggies and rosbifs, JesuisCharlies, JeSuisAhmeds, JesuisFlics, JesuisJuifes, and some waved pencils and flags, some waved Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one person inexplicably brought a broom...the crowd was huge and valiant, waiting in the cold for something to happen. People chanted 'Je Suis Charlie,' sang the Marseillaise repeatedly - I swear I thought the figure on the column twitched from time to time - and the song changed moods, from subdued to rousing, even down to people adding the triumphant 'Ton ton ton!' at the end, because it's all part of the anthem.

The French Ambassadress was there, and Nick Clegg and Boris turned up...but I must say the boys were, to my mind, something of an embarrassment. Surrounded by policemen and cameras, Clegg appeared to do nothing, and Boris was just a description down by the column.There is a fine line between quietly showing support and turning up for a photo opportunity. I understand that to take centre stage would have made them look as though they were trying to make the rally about themselves; but there's no point having words for the cameras and not the people.

Not that the idea was ever to stand there in the cold and sing a bit, oh no. First, the fountains started to sparkle in the appropriate colours of France, all very pretty. Then the idea was to project the Tricoleur on to the right and left wings of the National Gallery, and this proved more of a test than might be expected. Strange little lines, grid markings or something, and a company logo appeared on the walls, and what looked like an instruction screen sat there, instructions deleted one by one til it disappeared. After that, Victory! One side of the National Gallery was emblazoned with the Tricoleur, the other, with a magnificent depiction of the Microsoft logo. The crowd laughed, shouting 'Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite! Microsoft!' Abashed, whoever was behind the attempt tried to pull themselves together, and succeeded, both wings of the National Gallery suddenly alight with the colours of the French flag. There was much cheering, after which we dispersed for tea and scones in the Gallery itself.

I do think that people have missed the point of JeSuisCharlie; some have said that the magazine was racist etc: looks to me as though the mag was systematically challenging and controversial, but without knowledge of context, without even knowledge of the language, I cannot judge, and I am very wary of those who want to blame others for using their right to free speech. Everyone of us is offensive to somebody - I've received death threats, rape threats and even curses(!) there's always someone who really doesn't like us and there's probably someone we really don't like. We don't stop being who we are, and we don't stop others being who they are; we certainly don't kill them, nor are we killed by them. 'Meme pas peur,' was a phrase I learned, 'Not even afraid.' and another translated for me from a pencil scrawled placard: 'I DRAW WHAT I LIKE.'

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
november_girl
Jan. 12th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
You write so well. I know you know that, but I'm sure it doesn't do you harm to be reminded from time to time. :)
smokingboot
Jan. 14th, 2015 10:08 am (UTC)
It's very nice to hear, thank you!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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