The loss of one innocent life is as important as any other. There is no reason to be more disturbed by the atrocities that ended lives on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice than by similar incidents that occurred in Kabul or Beirut, Kazakhstan or Belgium. A life is a life is a life.
My belief that all victims – not only those from places or cultures to which we can easily relate – deserve our empathy remains unblemished. But Nice is a city in which I spent the best part of six years. Its pebbled beaches and the warm azure waters over which the sun set penetrated the marrow of my being. I close my eyes and see its rose, pink and yellow buildings. My palate recalls the taste of socca. My mind sees that same Mediterranean Sea my eyes once consumed from the balcony of my apartment. That same stretch of water both separates Europe from North Africa, and fuses together the destinies of their people.
So, when I picture the Old Town to which many scared people ran on that Thursday night, the image and the feelings it evokes has an immediate emotional resonance. My mind may race to friends who remained in Nice after I moved on, but the attack on the people of Nice has elicited a strong response in many South Australians who feel a sense of solidarity with France. We appreciate the depth of French learning and the sophistication of its culture. This attachment will further strengthen as a result of the French-English bilingual school which will open Adelaide next year. The successful bid of DCNS, as celebrated in Breton as it was in Adelaide, will bring forth an even deeper engagement. We will achieve much in partnership with the French people, who will further add the richness of a mature culture to our already cultivated state. French nationals living in South Australia would no doubt have appreciated the empathy expressed through vigils or other expressions of solidarity. Such displays sometimes appear tokenistic, but are heart-felt and do not escape attention or appreciation. They would be similarly appreciated if responding to attacks on civilians in Lebanon or Iraq.
Adelaide Oval has born the colours of the French flag after recent atrocities in France (image: Adelaide Oval Facebook)
As the recent atrocities occurred on Bastille Day, it was natural to invoke the spirit of the revolution. President Hollande said that France was struck on its national day, which was a symbol of freedom. Although the French Revolution was brutal, even by the standards of the day, it has come to represent the freedom we now feel is under threat. But freedom was not the only dream of the French Republic. A hunger for equality, solidarity and inclusion were also potent ideas which compelled the people to revolt. Modern France is not defined by religion or race. It is an idea. As we express our solidarity with France, it is important not to compromise the ideals on which the Republic was founded. And if we believe that égalité and fraternité, as well as liberté, have universal appeal, we should consider any attack on innocent lives equally lamentable. We should condemn all injustices, irrespective of the creed or circumstance of the victims. As these traumas fall one after the other, in Paris and Nice as in Tripoli and Istanbul, our sense of humanity should not be confined to those with whom we share a common history or cultural affinity, but extended to all people under the threat of tyranny. Only then can we be true to the highest ideals on which France was founded. @AndrewHunter__