I went to Paris once, when I visited my cousins who were living abroad in France while their father worked for an American company there. I was going into 6th grade. My favorite memories included the baguettes and cheese, the croissants and chocolate, and walking around Paris to get it, in between trips to historical churches, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Now the news is showing this city, which I only knew as an enamored child, briefly, in a bloody ruin. Terrorists have done to Paris what was once done to the US, and Madrid, and the shopping mall in Nigeria. I can’t help but thinking that my world is getting very small. I may never have had the urge to go to Nigeria or even Madrid, but Paris? That is on the top of the European list for me. Now, my world feels very small- in fact, ever since the Boston Marathon Bombing, I have dreaded the city, crowds, and especially the marathon, which I often attended as a kid. Yet, even my illusion of safety in my small, suburban town is in doubt. I feel safer here than anywhere else, but at the moment that doesn’t help with the very selfish grief and concern I have that my paranoia and subtle reclusively are being constantly validated, and none more so than yesterday with the multiple slaughters of over a hundred Parisians, most likely hipsters in their 20’s and 30s, people I could have been, if I had a nightlife.
When I was in my latest teens and earliest 20’s, I hung around with a lot of people who were very apocalyptic. to date myself-I was barely 18, in Boston and in my first WEEK of College when the attacks of September 11th happened. I thus have had absolutely NO iota of a memory of an adulthood not branded by terrorism. I think about how my daughter squeaked into life with a solid 8 years of minimum technology and how different my siblings’ and cousins’ newer-born children are playing on iPads at 2 years old as a solid contrast. My daughter KNOWS the other life that separates the digital and pre digital. She may forget it but that past was hers to claim.
Anyways, I was borne into an adulthood in which the very future of America seemed to be questionable.
I will never forget THAT. And it put a crack in me, to be evacuated from college in the city, shunted back on trains to the suburbs in the midst of a sparkling fall day, surrounded by businessmen who were evacuated from other tall towers, tall targets, in Boston. So it wasn’t too long after that until I found people that also did not have faith in America’s future, people that were already exploring living off the grid. People who now live in Thailand, on small farms in California growing medical marijuana and crops in isolated, legal oblivion, people that renounced medicine and chose plants as their path, people who gather in groups of thousands in the middle of national forests, just to be free and uncapitalized.
I hung around homeless musicians, busking on the Red Line, slept over artists’ community houses in Jamaica Plain, and in immigrant basements in Forest Hills. You can see how my life deteriorated as my belief in my future/America’s future was so instantly crushed my first week of adulthood?
I gathered in cuddle-puddles in Amherst. I cooked food with people who I can only describe as my tribe of the time. I got a degree in living off the grid as much as possible without checking out of society.
When that turned abusive and unsustainable, I looked back to reality, the America that was raging, engaging and dying in a war far away, but seemed to have bandaged itself proximately. It now seemed safer to live in that pack than in the anarchy. I got SIGNIFICANT education, including medical. I cut my dreadlocks off.
I do not refer back to the days of dreads, or topless lounging with friends, eating stir-fry in smokey rooms covered with tapestries and Bread and Puppet posters. I have been trying to reintegrate into the adult world of conformity for the past 8 years, and acknowledging my past is painful, reminds me of our country’s fragility and how convinced I was, at one time, to disconnect, run, hide, from the mainstream. The mainstream was the compliant target of the enemy, were they not? The World Trade, full of successful mainstreamers…to seek that success was to seek out my own victimhood. That’s how I felt.
Now that I am in the confines of the mainstream and have fought so hard to fit in, with this major, major massacre in Paris I feel the old need to disconnect very strongly. I want to flee, or barricade.
It is easiest to disassociate. That is what Americans will do, and it is a coping mechanism. I feel the urge to knock off some of my online Christmas shopping WHILE I feel the urge to move to northern Maine! The survival tactic needed to continue living on the grid requires a commitment to continuity, not changing behavior, and hoping we are safe from harm by the invisible hand of the police and God. And we are always safe until we are not. And Paris is always safe, until it is not.
This is a very selfish post. I am not ignoring the immediate need to respond to the brokenhearted souls who have lost loved ones, who are now instantly a mere speck of eternity. But if I don’t vent about my paranoia I will be worse off for it, and so will those I meet. In fact, I don’t know how ANY of us can just be satisfied with changing our Facebook status’s to an Eiffel tower and vows to pray.
I vow to Process.