For dessert this evening in our home in Chicago we will offer our guests a galette de rois – the almond cake served in January by the French in celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. We had learned to love its flavor and its ritual during our expatriate years in Paris, my base as an American working for a global company.
Last week’s horrible events in France -- the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and its bloody aftermath -- have had a special resonance in my household.
We spent September 11, 2001, glued to CNN. Through the hard days to follow, we struggled to connect with our friends and family back in the US, and to comprehend the enormity of the events. And we received unambiguous sympathy, condolences and support from our French neighbors, friends and colleagues.
Now from America, we reciprocate the reactions and the outreach, with some extra elements.
That’s partly because our communal ties to France have only deepened over the years since 9/11. I was invited in Paris to launch a part-time return to journalism, my first professional calling that had been in suspense for several decades. My column in the business section of the International Herald Tribune -- once a storied resource for its Anglophonic readership but now rebranded and sadly deflated -- evolved to become this blog.
And for the last four years I have had the pleasure of an adjunct faculty position at the internationally-oriented law school of the University of Cergy-Pontoise, with exposure to a cross-border body of students with a stimulating complexity of backgrounds and orientation.
“Are we all Charlie?”
Unlike the French cartoonists, few of us with the presumption of active access to our uniquely precious American constitutional rights of free speech and press will ever press the limits. Deeply as my writings aspire to disturb the status quo and to provoke dialog beyond the limits of blinkered conventional thinking, physical safety is the last thing on my mind.
Nor – however noble my abstract concerns – could I say with confidence that I might actually have the courage deliberately to put myself or my loved ones in harm’s way, even for the principled sake of testing the strength of the pen against the sword.
Which being said, the breadth and diversity on display at today’s unity rally in Paris, across the population of France and the leaders of a host of countries, serve to validate the symbolic acts by which we can stand together against the acts of barbarity and ignorance that affect us all, wherever we may live.
Thanks for joining this dialog. Please share with friends and colleagues. Comments are welcome, and subscription sign-up is easy and free, both on the Main page.