Feb 17, 2016

P1010957The First of Several Blogs on My Account of Paris, November 6 to 15, 2015
By Elinor Coleman, owner Elinor Coleman’s Vintage Mirage

This blog content will discuss and describe my emotional response to the violence in Paris as well as the concept of the mostly unreported and systematic silence about the extreme number of violent incidents in the USA and around the world.

In the following blogs I promise to discuss and explore the original concept of fashion trends and favorite places in Paris.

In November, 2015 I visited Paris with my husband David for a long anticipated family reunion, Nov 6th to Nov 15th. This family visit had been planned for a decade and served as a long awaited homecoming for me and my cousins. When I was younger I lived in Paris as a modern dancer-performer and teacher and student of French; and, thus, this trip was my first visit back to my favorite city. I always imagined that I would return to Europe to live and work.

We chose to stay in my favorite neighborhood – Le Quartier Latin, 6th Arrondissement (in the Latin Quarter- the 6th on the Left Bank) in the shadow of the École nationale supérieure des Beaux Arts (The Beaux Arts School), and right in the middle of the St. Germain des Pres (old quarter neighborhood of shopping, jazz clubs, art galleries, and great cafés.) The feeling of the neighborhood is similar to the Village and Soho of NYC.

For some of you who have seen my selected purchases at the store – jewelry and accessories – this visit was a wonderful and also tragic and frightening experience. David and I were taking pictures of each other around one of the canals which flow into the Seine River and Place de la République at 6pm on Friday evening. I was shocked to see so much graffiti on the various lampposts, bridges, and, of course, the massive concrete and stone base statue, all the way up to the bronze statue on top of Lady Liberty! Mind you, this was not the usual graffiti I am familiar with from NYC with tagging, this was crude exclamations and extreme slogans.

The Place de la République is an enormous circular concrete center plaza where many busy streets and boulevards come together, and which is like a hub for traffic and pedestrians going by train and subway; and is the formally designated place for citizens to demonstrate about any civic or political issue. The statue is an enourmous sculpture of a woman dressed in a flowing dress and skirt, hair flying-holding up a flame, signifying Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.

Following the terrorist attacks, images of the statue that you saw on the news depicted the statue’s base purposefully masked by banners to hide the graffiti from the news cameras. The day of the attacks we walked all around the neighborhood called Oberkampf, which is higher on a hillside as well as residential and multi-national. We did see women and children after school along the streets, but kept seeing many young men in the cafés, but no women and few children. I remarked to David how odd this seemed. Such a bad vibe.

Also the feeling was unnerving and my stomach ached, so we left to return to the hotel to rest, promising a gallery owner that we would return at 8pm or so to formally attend an art opening, and of course also go have an umbrella tropical drink at the only Tiki Bar in Paris, which was right next door. (David also had suggested that we attend the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan Theatre but I talked him out of it. We later learned that the concert had been sold out anyway.)

Now you know, that Friday evening terrorists killed many innocent people at a café, theatre venue, the main sports stadium, and Place de la République where we had been taking pictures just two hours before the attacks began. Six locations were targeted in total, hundreds of people killed and injured, and businesses and apartments destroyed.

I found myself re-experiencing the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I consciously worked with my husband David to stay calm, notify family and friends that we were safe, became overly sensitive to observing people on the streets and in cafés in our neighborhood, silently said prayers for protection and healing, and carefully orchestrated exactly how early and how we would depart from the Paris airport, finally sighing in relief once we walked through customs at Dulles Airport on Sunday. It was as if I began holding my breath from Friday evening through Sunday evening.

P1010966So it has taken me some time to process this blog post, since what I had wanted to accomplish was to document and explore the fashions of the Latin Quarter and the French aesthetic in general from my vantage point, of course. I also wanted to document the street outfits and new trending stores I visited. I was not able to go back to the shops and a museum exhibit which were planned for Saturday, a true shopping day in Paris.

So in my future blogs, I shall put this behind me, and focus on fashion and the arts. But for now, here are some of my thoughts and questions for consideration, discussion and social inter-action.

I find myself repeatedly analyzing my view and experience of the world in an historic overview – political, economic, artistic, social justice, environmental ,and psychological. From the news I have read diligently, London Financial Times, Washington Post, a boat load of magazines, and over one hundred non-profit organization newsletters, I have now placed several years of violent crimes in Europe together with a startling number of violent crimes here in the US all together for analysis. Then I add in all of the reports of the tribal and religious wars in Africa, Asia, Central America and Eastern Europe and find the patterns overwhelming.

Are there overlapping elements, and major concrete steps to take – intentions of leaders or basic/ fundamental social programs or procedures which we can establish in this iPhone stroke, immediate gratification moment – in order to be able to solve this seeming world crisis in this lifetime?

Will the future be dominated entirely by people who experience daily only imbalance in power, filled with anger and frustration and the need to be heard, seeking to attract attention to problems hidden from view, or express their anger and frustration of seeing no future at all, so violence and destruction become their mantra? Their graffiti on the sculpture?

What can we do directly in the schools and society at large which can bridge the communications gaps which to my view seem to be totally disconnected and unintelligible.

So let me refer you to an article I read: Vogue Magazine, December 2015, “Arms and the Man” by Jennifer Mascia – a full time gun policy journalist/reporter for “The Trace.” The Trace website is funded by Everytown for Gun Safety, a project funded by former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.

I highly encourage you read this article, because at the end, Mascia explains that the coverage of the consistent violent incidences in the US are not documented for several reasons. Therefore, how could we as uninformed citizens discuss the issues of social responsibility if we do not have the overall information, and clearly see the network or non-network of violence against strangers or neighbors or family members? How prevalent is the trend for various agencies to withhold information! The non-reporting distorts our psyche.

So let us hopefully begin a serious and well formed knowledge based discussion nationwide, in terms of conversation but also create a real action plan to stop the violence.
Yes, this is an election year. This is also 2016 and we need to solve some of the problems which are at the essence of anger and conflict here in the US, and also around the world.

P1010969Here off the top of my head are several real actions to activate with others and congress or city councils:

  • Establish and schedule monthly inter-faith discussions and activities in cities and communities.
  • Design discussions specifically for all people to meet and discuss issues, especially boys and girls and teenagers, along with adults and teachers and ministries/spiritual leaders.
  • Fund after school programs with meaningful content such as: debate groups, performing arts curriculum (dance, music, theatre, poetry), ombudsmen peer counseling groups, visual arts programs, sports, personal health, and medical care.
  • Organize and fund recycle and reuse facility warehouses locally for gathering and disseminating clothing, household furniture, and canned goods. Expand and better coordinate the established local, county, private and non-profit social service networks, and food banks nationwide.
  • Fund mentoring, literacy and intergenerational programs – not just for schools, but for libraries, neighborhood shelters, and community centers. Include such programs for social service outreach on community college and university campuses.
  • Build and fund new affordable housing and inter-mingle all types of housing together in every housing development both in the inner-city, but also in the urban areas.
  • Fund special needs facilities for young adults who require psychological treatment and assistance.
  • Formally screen individuals who wish to purchase firearms and ammunition. Formally screen and document individuals who sell fire arms and ammunition in all business transactions of all types.
  • Create a national and all inclusive data base for all violent crimes both historically and futuristically, in order to make the information accessible to all protective services and law enforcement
  • Expand the day care facilities, Head Start programs and provide these services free of charge.
  • Fund the community colleges nationwide and provide technical and job training as well as degree programs free of charge to all adults nationwide.

So finally my thought is that once we implement these programs and develop additional resolutions, then maybe we can, by example, persuade other nations to do the same. Up until this February, it would seem that most Europeans perceived the US as overwhelmingly violent, as in gun violence. So we show by example and demonstrate by best practices. Just as we should be willing to adopt the best practices of other countries, such as neighborhood cultural/educational centers and free child daycare. We have a long way to go.

Elinor Coleman
Elinor Coleman’s Vintage Mirage

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