Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Martin: Fraternité

My wife, Magali, is from Paris, so in the wake of last weekend’s terrorist attacks, our thoughts naturally leapt first to our family and friends who still live there. We also felt deeply for our former neighbors in Paris - one attack took place just a few steps away from our old apartment.

While analysts debate the geopolitical and strategic ramifications, the rest of us are left with our grief, anger, shock, and confusion. And as we struggle to make sense of unspeakable violence, one thing that stands out is the French notion of solidarity. In the hours that followed the attacks, many Paris residents opened their homes to strangers stranded in the resulting chaos. Good Samaritans tweeted #porteouverte, or “open door”, to help fellow Parisians find temporary shelter. And even as the government declared a state of emergency, Parisians turned out to donate blood and place flowers, candles and messages on the street to honor the victims.

I’m encouraged that at a time of great fear, the French instinctively reached out. That’s an example of the fraternité the French pride themselves on. Perhaps this is the true strength of Paris, a city where neighborhoods feel like villages, a city whose beauty attracts people from all around the world, which, in turn, makes it more beautiful.

Some politicians are already attacking this culture of freedom and inclusion to try to make the attack about immigration. Even worse, a far-right gang attacked a North African Frenchman in Brittany this weekend. But xenophobia and intolerance are not French values, and Parisians know that the fight is with ISIS, not their corner Tunisian grocer, Malian cab driver, or Egyptian tax consultant.

Interviewed in Paris only hours after the attacks, Samia Hathroubi of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding said this is not a clash of civilizations, but rather a clash of “humanity and brotherhood against inhumanity and blind violence.”

This is why we’re all Parisians in a sense, and why so many monuments all over the world were lit up in the colors of the French Republic last weekend, even as the Eiffel Tower went dark to mourn.

Paris still has dark days ahead, filled with grief and security alerts, but the City of Lights has long resisted barbarians. Already, on the Place de la République, citizens have painted the Paris motto Fluctuat nec mergitur on a huge panel. Describing Paris, it means “She is tossed by the waves, but not sunk.”

Mike Martin is the Director of Learning for South Burlington School District and a Senior Associate with the Rowland Foundation.
Latest Stories