The Crimson White

Terrorists have guns. We have champagne.

John David Thompson

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The Tuesday after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, as I was exiting the Metro, I passed a magazine stand. One headline in particular caught my eye. It was the cover of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo: “Ils ont les armes, on les emmerde. On a le champagne!” In English, “They have guns. F— them. We have champagne.”

While such fare might seem silly in gun-loving Alabama, this headline captured the essence of Paris, the joie de vivre of enjoying a quality life. The Nov. 13 attacks were certainly an impactful part of my study abroad experience, but the Parisian response was the most meaningful. No matter what, the Parisians were determined not to change their lifestyles in the face of danger. The terrorists had guns. The Parisians had champagne.

The Charlie Hebdo headline has a message of positivity that we all could use. At a time of incensed fears, many were seizing the moment to fill the world with hate and fear. The Charlie Hebdo cover reminded me of a quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” Why waste energy on hate when you could be enjoying your life?

Perhaps rather than arming ourselves with fear and hate, as we so often do, maybe we would all be better off if we just sat down, had a glass of champagne and just enjoyed life. Living in the 24-hour news cycle, it is nearly impossible to completely remove ourselves from the issues of the world and our lives. Push notifications signalling emails from colleagues and professors, social media, calendar events and so on, make it nearly impossible to escape and just relax.

In college, we rarely have the opportunity to live in the present. The future is constantly demanding our attention. Registration for the next semester, summer internship, graduate school applications or finding a job — it seems as though the present is only a short, temporary moment that we cannot wait to rush through. My time in Paris taught me the importance of living in the present. The usual worries of the future were not pressuring me. I could only think as far ahead as which chateau or museum to visit the next weekend. However, the Nov. 13 attacks were a very unfortunate reminder of just how quickly life can end.

The weekend of the attacks was tense for Paris and the world. The fear of the unknown was all consuming. At first, the only thing to do was watch of the news and stay inside, especially for my classmates and me, alone and far from home.

By Sunday night, though, people were trying their best to resume normal lives. Mourners began bringing flowers to a vigil at the Place de la République and the sites of the attacks. A mass was held at Notre Dame and a crowd of mourners, still somewhat uneasily gathered outside the Cathedral. The nervousness of Paris became apparent when in jest, someone lit fireworks at the Place de la République. Nevertheless, Parisians began returning to the sidewalk cafes to enjoy food, drink, and fellowship with friends, escaping from the worries of the world. 

John David Thompson is a junior majoring in political science and French. His column runs biweekly.

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Terrorists have guns. We have champagne.