In case you haven’t heard, or for whatever reason haven’t created a Google Alert for France in order to better keep up with my travels, Paris is one of the many countries that has been protesting the film “Innocence of Muslims” outside of the US Embassy in the country.
And that is incredibly frightening for me.
In the beginning, most of the protesting countries were in the Middle East, places I would never visit and had no connection to. Places where you see American flags being burned and hear of people saying anti-American things because you kind of shake it off because you’re not there and there’s the grocery list you have to write and someone just texted you and wow, is it time to leave already?
I did that too. Still do it, sometimes. I’m guilty of it, I know. I clicked on the link, read the article, and then hit the red “x” button. Out of sight, somewhat out of mind. I’ve got places to go, people to see, croissants to eat—that kind of thing.
But now I can’t do that. These protests aren’t in Egypt and other countries where I don’t know how to speak the native language. Now they’re here, in France, in Paris where I live, in French that I can (somewhat) speak.
In other words, shit just got real.
This isn’t watching protests on the TV or streaming videos of them online—this is talking to classmates who live in the area where the protests are being held (Place de la Concorde, by the Champs Elysees) and have seen the protests in person.
This is a big deal. The French Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning urging French citizens in the Muslim world to be careful. French schools and embassies were closed on Friday, the Muslim holy day, in over 20 potentially dangerous countries.
And that’s not near me, but then I’m getting emails from my study abroad program telling me to avoid certain areas. I signed up to get email travel alerts and warnings for France by the US State Department.
It’s like last November where the Egyptian revolts were kind of just starting and I kind of just knew about them and then a Drexel student got arrested and detained by Egyptian authorities for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails in a demonstration outside of the American University of Cairo. Unfortunately, it was the kick in the butt I needed to become more aware of the world. It’s sad that it was a student getting arrested that was the final pushing point of action for me.
And because he got arrested literally the first day of Thanksgiving break, I am selfish enough that I felt a little annoyed that I had to do this thing of checking Google News and emailing staff members I thought I’d get a vacation from, all to make sure we were doing the Right Thing as student journalists and working tirelessly.
As the then-assistant news editor and social media editor of the student newspaper, I had to suddenly start paying attention real fast because there were links and updates to tweet and articles to write and contribute to and people to contact and suddenly, this was so much realer and more important now because I was involved with it.
I feel that way now. I’ve watched the video, read the articles, watched online news reports. And I wonder, would I do this if I wasn’t living in Paris? Would I do this if I didn’t have friends in Paris? Even still, I’m paying more attention to information pertaining to the demonstrations in Paris than in other parts of the Muslim world simply because I am living in Paris now.
But then again, Paris has an additional risk-factor associated to it, because this very anti-establishment satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo published an inflammatory cartoon of a naked Mohammad and this has only made the tensions caused by the film even worse. Their office is under police protection, people are protesting that too in addition to the American Embassy and other places, and I’m just waiting for the day where I’ll actually see the protests or maybe one of these times where I’m called out for being American won’t end in a cute, funny story (or blog post).
That isn’t to say that I’m hiding out in my room, but it’s just something that, like I said, I have to pay attention to now and I (ignorantly) didn’t think I would have to. And as long as I’m paying attention to it, then it shouldn’t matter as much that I’m doing it for more selfish reasons as long as I am still making an effort to be informed about it.