I keep getting emails from concerned friends in the United States asking me if I am “safe” or other words that translate to words very similar in meaning to that word of warm certainty: “safe”. Apparently the reason is that, to the American world, the French world is going up in flames.
To these concerned friends I have given a fairly consistently similar answer: “We Parisians just don’t give a shit”.
That is true. Life is going on here in pretty much the same manner as it always has.
So I could have said to my friends in my email responses something such as that. I could have said “no, I haven’t seen any gas stations being torched or terrorists lurking here and there; I had to read The Economist for that”.
But I haven’t said that.
And there is a reason.
Being “safe” is extremely low on my list of personal priorities.
Being “safe'” (the word needs to be uttered by the person using it with a sort of whimper, to make it an authentic query as to one’s “safeness” and to show the queryer’s grasp of the futility of the question in the great cosmic spectrum of “unsafeness”) is tantamount to telling – whoever it is that one should aspire to be “safe” from (the terrorists come to mind, but I am so old that I can remember when “teenager” was a term of opprobrium that described a creature walking the streets in waylayance of decent law abiding – older – citizens) that they have won the day. If one wants to be "safe", those entities – whomever they may be – from whom we all need to be “safe”, have won the day, the battle, the month, the year, the century, the millennium; they have won all of whatever it may be that those of us on the “other side” hold dear and sacred; so I don’t want to be “safe”.
“Safe” seems to me to be too much like being “dead”, but “dead” in an eerie zombie-like form.
So we Parisians just don’t give a shit.
But the French government does – give a shit - and I think I am kind of glad of that.
Because the government’s manifestation of “giving a shit” takes the form of military personnel in full temperate zone camouflage fatigues armed with short barreled, obviously automatic, machine guns.
However, this is a two-sided coin.
One side – the one that I really subscribe to – is “good; they are ready to lay the fuckers low, whoever the fuckers may be, and I guess I can jump behind a tree if I happen to be at a fucker- elimination site”.
Even I, who love guns, and view – at least the ones with wooden stocks and their beautifully decoratively handled pistol cousins – as works of art, am mildly rattled by three, four or five young French people walking around (like little flocks of green, brown and black plumaged birds - and at some locations multiple flocks of them) with the full fire power of all of WWII in each of his or her hands.
But then, I have said that I don’t want to be “safe” as the word in quotes is being defined by me.
So being somewhat “rattled” takes the place of being "safe".
And there seem to be a lot more police sirens than I have ever heard.