On the 13th of November 2016, 130 people were killed by terrorists in Paris. As France awoke and saw the news the following day, people had common feelings. Disbelief. Dread. Grief. Hate. Anger. Many questions. How could men, armed with military grade weapons stroll into Paris and shoot innocent civilians? How could this happen again, 10 months after the infamous Charlie Hebdo shooting? Are our security services up to date? Can they protect us?
I think that it was after the massacre of the 13th of November that the French people realized truly how much of a threat the Islamic State is. The attacks were a statement; that anybody could be attacked, anywhere, without warning. It doesn’t matter if you are a child, man, woman, civilian; you are a target. The killing of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo was seen as an attack on the press and free speech, but the November massacre was perceived as an attack on the French people.
Sadly, these feelings were consolidated last Thursday, on the 14thof July. As the French national day was drawing to an end, a crazed, radicalized man at the wheel of a truck plowed into a crowd of civilians who were watching the fireworks in Nice, leaving 84 men, women and children dead, with over a hundred others injured.
The newest massacre on French territory introduced another element of terror into the minds of the population: the realization that these fanatics will try to kill us with anything that has the potential of being deadly. The terrorists wanted to instill fear in France, and I don’t believe that they have failed.
It didn’t take long for people’s routines to resume, for people to move on, for people to move forward. The massacre in Paris occurred on a Friday night, schools reopened the following Monday. As with most significant events, the massacre faded away in people’s lives. At least that’s what it looks like on the surface. The French population was deeply shocked by the terrorist attacks. It feels like people always have the events somewhere in their minds. People are more careful, more anxious, more aware of their surroundings. The fear of being in danger, doing everyday things, like walking down the street, having a drink with friends, going to a concert… is always in people’s minds.
In a time of great distress and pain, people put aside their beliefs, religions and ideas and come together, to heal together and stand up to the oppressors as one. The French nation did exactly that. You could feel the pride people had to be French, the desire to come together and show the terrorists that we will stand up to them and destroy them. Our resolve is indefinite, and we will overcome the people who come to our country to kill our women, our children, our sons, our daughters, our brothers, sisters. The French nation came together to show our disgust for the terrorists and to show them that we will stand up to them, because our resolve is greater than theirs.
The terrorist attacks unified the French people, but that unification was short lived. France is divided. Unemployment keeps rising, the government has less than 20% approval rating, and the subject of immigration, especially regarding the recent surges in the past 5 years are just a few subjects that divide the French people.
In a year’s time, the presidential elections are going to take place, and the candidates don’t look very promising. The extreme right movement is profiting massively on the lack of results, unclear programs of other political parties, and on the widespread rejection of immigrants that has spread through out France. The extreme right is expected to rise to the second round of the presidential elections, which worries many people, as the rise of extremist movements are starting to become more menacing.
On top of the country rallying behind Nice and its victims, a new factor came to disrupt the negative dynamic in French society: the Euro cup. Hosted in France, the football tournament which pits Europe’s best national football teams against each other brought the French nation together, supporting the French national team. The French team had a great tournament, reaching the finals but losing to Portugal.
Although the disappointment of losing the final at home was immense, I feel like the French nation rallied behind its team, and more importantly rallied with each other, casting away the divisions that tear apart our society. The newfound unity was beautiful, especially in defeat. “We won together, we suffered together, and now we lost together,”said Didier Deschamps, manager of the French team.