14 November 2015

# Porte Ouverte

le 14 novembre 2015



It was ten months ago that I wrote about freedom of speech, of words, of the privilege of pens, and of those were killed, in some ways, for that. #Je Suis Charlie. Today, yesterday, it’s freedom of assembly. A concert (could “death metal” become more ironic?). A soccer game. Restaurants. Freedom of movement, of passage. The borders are close to closed. Famously, in the 1830s (as also depicted in Les Misérables), Paris was barricaded, fighting from the inside. Seventy years ago, there was the Maginot line, there was “Free France” and my grandparents fighting in the Resistance, there was my old favorite movie, La Grande Vadrouille, with the propeller plane landing just over an invisible frontier and then escaping back to England.

I still don’t know how much we should take for granted. There is a UN declaration. But not even every country is counted in that.

I commented to a friend that this—ISIS, all of it—is like a terrible, blockbuster movie for July 4 weekend. Except I don’t know who the hero is. There isn’t one. In another friend’s village in Cameroon, he discovered that people believed that in action movies, those who die, die. Ebola was that. I have trouble truly conceiving of so much destruction I have not experienced except in fiction. I know personal tragic and tragedies. I’ve seen babies, so many babies (and so many adults) die of AIDS. And TB. And malaria. And diarrhea. And malnutrition. And tetanus (the most banal-sounding shot I give my patients to check off the 10-year mark) : a five-day old with lockjaw who died because he couldn’t feed. And there was nothing else to do. I’ve seen that. I’ve been in shantytowns. I was in Kenya six months after buildings and people were burned in the 2007 elections. I saw the burn marks. But I’ve never been in it.