“We’re all just walking each other home.”
Saturday night’s Orlando attacks are the stuff of nightmares. A vulnerable community, attacked in the very space they were meant to feel safe. It tears at our very vision of society to know that things like this are possible.
It is no easy thing to talk about. And it’s becoming so familiar.
In November, just as we were about to launch Moveable Feast Provence, the Parisian terror attacks happened. And just like that, France—along with the rest of the world– was plunged into distress and terror. Much like Orlando, it just felt so unthinkable. Attacking people in the same spaces that were meant for celebration and joy… It made us sick to our stomachs to imagine that the worst of humanity could cause so much damage to the innocent among us. Is this really the world we’re creating? These things are jarring in a deep, soul-bound place.
And then in December, a deeply moving thing began to take place in the wake of the Paris attacks. In the midst of their tears, Parisians tried to re-center their focus on what made them strong and special in the first place. They celebrated, not in spite of the attacks, not as a mindless escape from what had happened, but as a way to recover their shared humanity. Their common sense of being a village, one that doesn’t cower in fear or acquiesce to terror. The community celebrated love and living well because we never know when our party might stop.
And then, unbeknownst to us launching this, French adoration of Hemingway’s classic, A Moveable Feast, began to resurge. The book became a symbol at vigils and memorials throughout Paris that life must be celebrated no matter the circumstances—rich or poor, suffering or joy—it was all a part of the narrative. A Moveable Feast struck a new chord in France telling us once again that there was a way of approaching the world and your place in it that recognized the duality of life. While things may be unspeakably grim in the moment, that this precious life was still worth living. You can read about it all here, but the general idea is that the literal French translation of the book’s title, “Paris est un fete (Paris is a Celebration),” was a gust of wind in French people’s sails. It was a reminder that the spirit of France, the joie de vivre, the special something that sets them apart would not be damaged in light of a terrible event. This “symbolic and defiant” thought became the new motto. And while we can’t know the depth of the vulnerability and devastation this targeted community will feel, even yesterday Pride parades across the country were larger and stronger than ever, communities rallied en force. Yesterday was an indication that in the weeks to come, the spirit of the LGBTQ community will thrive in the same way: life must be lived. We cannot let fear defeat love. The rule must be of bravery and not of hiding in the shadows. In times of devastation and fear, these things are true here, now, both in Florida and throughout the world.
This is not to gloss over the incredible darkness of an ugly, evil act. Or to distract from the fact that every day, both the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community are at high risk of both danger and isolation in the States. As these communities find their shaky footing, protect your neighbor. Be a tiny flicker of light in a deep dark ocean, reminding us that good will prevail. Remind one another (even when it’s hard to remember ourselves) that the celebration of our shared humanity and the gift of life will not be dampened by ugly acts committed by desperate people. That hope and love live longer than fear and hatred.
And that we’re all just walking each other home.
-Laura and Team Moveable Feast