Je suis Française, je suis blessée *

* I’m French, I’m hurt

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La version française se trouve plus bas.

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I have been hooked up on the news for two days now, just like during the war this summer. And it’s exactly how it feels like: war in France. I am hurt, I am sad, I can’t believe what I am hearing and I can’t imagine what the future will look like. Bad news keep arriving, every time my phone rings it’s for a new development about the events that are happening right now and I am afraid to read the messages I am getting. People from all around the world are telling me “They are talking about your country in the news, it’s insane!”.

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By Charles M. Schulz. Charlie Hebdo’s name is a reference to Charlie Brown from Peanuts.

My country. France. My first country. No matter where I go, who I am becoming, I will always be French. People here tend to forget it, because when I am being asked where I am from, I usually answer Geneva so they automatically assume I’m just Swiss. And I must admit that generally, I am kind of glad to be able to say that I am Swiss, to not be associated with all the noisy tourists that flood Tel Aviv’s beaches every summer or to the generally bad reputation French tend to have abroad.

But I grew up in France. I lived there for 18 years, I went to school there, from kindergarten to high school, and I was steeped in the values of the Republic, of liberty, tolerance, secularism and democracy. I studied literature, philosophy, I loved the “Siecle des Lumieres”, I tried to understand what it had been living at the time of the Dreyfus affair; I wanted to believe the textbooks when they were saying that France resisted, that collaborators were minority. I forgave France for having deported my grandmother’s family who fled occupied Belgium, because after all, the country took her in with my father and the rest of the family when they had to flee from their home country, years later.

I loved the diversity of people I met at school. The two little Turkish guys who arrived in the middle of the year, not able to speak a word of French; Olga, who seemed like she was running away from Russia, etc… I will always remember, mid 1990s, discussing the wars in the world with my Iranian friend, saying that it was too sad that they were not all friends like us.

But France has its issues. How can you defend liberty and tolerance and at the same time having zero tolerance for those who want to kill those values? How can you, in the name of freedom of speech, let those who want to suppress this right, talk? It seems that the country, and more generally the occidental world, is having a very hard time drawing the fine line between liberty and permissiveness.

This summer, I got into an argument with some of my friends from Europe, mainly because they couldn’t understand that the conflict Israel is facing is more than political, that it’s ideological and religious. Someone even told me it was all because of money. I answered that Occident was refusing to understand right now that those people don’t care about money, they don’t even care about dying, and you couldn’t negotiate with them because all they want is spread terror and massacre. I added that if Europe didn’t realize that soon, they would have to face the same threat, and would not know how to react because they did not get prepared. I didn’t think I would be proven right so soon… I wish I were not.

Je suis Française, je suis triste. I’m Frech, I’m sad.

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Je suis restée scotchée aux nouvelles depuis maintenant deux jours, exactement comme lors de la guerre cet été. Et c’est exactement à cela que ça ressemble : la France est en guerre. Je suis blessée, je suis triste, je n’arrive pas à croire ce que j’entends et je ne peux imaginer ce que sera le futur. Les mauvaises nouvelles continuent d’arriver, chaque fois que mon téléphone sonne c’est à propos d’un nouveau rebondissement et j’ai peur d’ouvrir les messages que je reçois. Des gens aux quatre coins du monde me disent « ils parlent de ton pays aux infos, c’est fou ! ».

Mon pays. La France. Mon premier pays. Peu importe où je vais, ce que je deviens, je serais toujours française. Les gens ici ont tendance à l’oublier, parce que lorsqu’on me demande d’où je viens, je réponds généralement Genève et ils en concluent logiquement que je suis suisse. Et je dois bien avouer que la plupart du temps, je suis assez contente de pouvoir dire que je suis suisse pour ne pas être associée aux touristes bruyants qui envahissent les plages de Tel Aviv chaque été ou simplement à la mauvaise réputation que les français tendent à avoir à l’étranger.

Mais j’ai grandi en France. J’y ai vécu 18 ans, je suis allée à l’école là-bas, de la maternelle au lycée, et j’ai été baignée dans les valeurs de la République, de liberté, de tolérance, de laïcité et de démocratie. J’ai étudié la littérature, la philosophie, j’ai aimé le Siècle des Lumières, j’ai essayé de comprendre ce que cela a pu être de vire à l’époque de l’affaire Dreyfus ; je voulais croire les livres d’école qui disaient que la France a résisté, que les collabos étaient minoritaires. J’ai pardonné à la France d’avoir déporté la famille de ma grand-mère qui fuyait la Belgique occupée car après tout, le pays l’a reçue, avec mon père et le reste de la famille, lorsqu’ils ont dû fuir leur propre pays des années plus tard.

J’ai aimé la diversité des gens que j’ai rencontrés à l’école. Les deux petits turcs qui sont arrivés en milieu d’année, ne parlant pas un mot de français ; Olga, qui semblait fuir la Russie, etc… Je me rappellerais toujours, milieu des années 90, parler des guerres dans le monde avec ma copine iranienne, nous disant que c’était trop triste que les gens n’arrivent pas à être simplement amis comme nous l’étions.

Mais la France a aussi ses problèmes. Comment peut-on défendre la liberté et la tolérance et en même temps n’avoir aucune tolérance pour ceux qui veulent tuer ces valeurs ? Comment peut-on, au nom de la liberté d’expression, laisser à ceux qui veulent la supprimer, le droit de parler ? Il semble que le pays, et de façon plus générale, l’occident, a beaucoup de mal à tracer l’étroite limite qui existe entre liberté et laxisme.

Cet été, j’ai eu des discussions houleuses avec mes amis d’Europe, principalement parce qu’ils ne pouvaient pas comprendre que le conflit auquel Israël doit faire face est plus que politique, qu’il est idéologique et religieux. Quelqu’un m’a même dit que ce n’était qu’une question d’argent. Je lui ai répondu que l’Occident refuse pour le moment de comprendre que ces personnes se moquent de l’argent, elles se moquent même de mourir, et l’on ne peut pas négocier avec eux puisque qu’ils ne rêvent que de semer la terreur et le massacre. J’ai ajouté que si l’Europe ne s’en rendait pas compte rapidement, ils auraient bientôt à affronter les mêmes menaces et ne sauraient même pas comment réagir puisqu’ils ne sont pas préparés. Je ne pensais pas que cela se confirmerait si vite… J’aurais aimé avoir tord.

Je suis Française, je suis triste.

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Ambilly, c’est fini.

Closing the door one last time. Not looking back. That’s it: I will never set a foot in this house again. The house of my childhood, my home. Maybe I won’t even come back in this small town. Ambilly, c’est fini.  IMG_2668

It’s rather rare in life to know when we are doing something for the last time. I walked back from the border last night, like I’ve done a million time before. Route de Geneve, taking left after the shady bar. Walking fast, it’s not the best neighborhood although I actually never got any trouble. Walking through the residential alley, smelling flowers in the night; spring finally arrived here.

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Waiting for the tram 12 at Bel-Air, one last time.

Taking left once again. Pont Noir. Crossing the railway where it seems a ghost train might appear since they took off the barrier. It feels a bit weird. Last straight line. Rue des Marroniers. I think about Kenny almost every time. I’m not even sure it is where he was living but that’s what child-me remembers. He won’t be there on his motorbike though. Never.

Now the roundabout. On the right the school “La Paix”. My school. I’ve been in every classroom, I played in the yard, I ran, I felt, I lost my favorite marble against a big girl, I sat on the ground, talking for hours with my Iranian friend, wondering why “the couldn’t all get along as we do”. The political discussions we had at 10 do not sound so different from the ones we are having now.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, the street lights were not working. The night was so dark I could not see the playground in front of the school, as if the town was closing down. Good bye,  don’t be sad, there is nothing left from your childhood anyway, nothing to regret.

Walking  along the stadium; on the other side, the park. The lights are on there, but I’m not even sure I visited it since it’s been renovated. It’s not anymore the place where I played hide-and-seek for hours, where I scared myself out going downhill on roller-blades and turning last second to avoid falling in the pond. The waterlilies, the huge goldfish and the broken bricks of the edges, all are gone already.

Left one more time. The entrance of the “Cottages”. The sign has been destroyed years ago but the mailboxes haven’t changed since we got there. Left again in front of Julien’s house. Passing Gael’s, Laura’s, James and Marina’s. Their parents are still living here but we are not riding our bikes together anymore. Au revoir les amis. Facebook is our new neighborhood.

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French boulangerie, when will I ever see you again?

Numero 6. There are no flowers on the clematis. I pause for a second. Good bye little house. Kissing the mezuza one last time. Good bye home. Now I will cary my home with me, everywhere, in the heart of those I love. A house is not a home, it’s just bricks. Home is where love is.