Je ne suis pas Charlie, mais je pleure pour lui

The vicious attacks in Paris are no doubt in many of our minds.

The United States military is drawing down from Afghanistan this very moment. The military already withdrew from Iraq although small numbers are returning in response to ISIL. The United States combat against terrorism, at least on the front page, is dying.

So this attack feels fresh, feels like a strike back when we subconsciously thought the worst was over.

Nothing condones an attack like this at anyone. And nothing justifies the premature violent deaths of these people in Paris. None of those people deserved that.

We all see this as an onslaught to freedom of speech.

Charlie Hedbo depicts an underlying sentiment most people of minority races have experienced: a growing xenophobia in Europe, especially against Muslim immigrant populations. Heck, *I* as an ethnic Asian experienced it. I lost count of the number of times I see people physically relax once I start talking and they realize I am an American, not their assumed perception of “another of those Asian immigrants.” I experienced people’s hostility thawing at that latter discovery. They don’t even hide it.

Europe, especially France, see growing numbers of Muslims in their borders. Look at the reluctance and resistance to admitting Turkey into the EU. Turkey is far more populous, and Muslim, dramatically changing the demographics and shift of majorities in Europe. France’s coping mechanisms, in my opinion, are faulty. The French are famous for their  “if you want to live in France, you are French and act French” integration attitude. But banning the hijab (head coverings for women) is going too far. Sarkozy went as far as to propose legislation banning the burqa. While the bans in schools against the hijab has been at least broadened to include “large” religious items from all religions (large crosses and the Jewish yarmulks), Sarkozy’s proposal specifically targeted Muslims.

Islam is loosing a popularity contest in the modern Western world. There is no question that Islamic radicalism has been a serious threat to the world. But the tendency to lump almost a quarter of the world’s population with the terrorist elements is unfair and simply discriminatory. What a sad turn in history. The Ottoman Empire once exemplified learning, tolerance, and advancement far beyond anything seen in the European Renaissance, with probably the exception of Da Vinci’s genius. The Crusades were arguably Christian attacks on the Muslim world, for the sake of access to symbolic land.

It breaks my heart to see the Muslim community face the vitriol thrown blindly at their direction. All my travels, hands down, I found the Muslim communities to be some of the warmest hosts. Me, a lone female without my male relative to drive me around. I was welcomed into so many humble homes, fed so much delicious food, patted and hen-pecked as if I were on of their own.

Europe is standing tenuously on a tightrope. Peace and tolerance. Or racism and xenophobia. The very secularism France pride themselves in allows for both equality and discrimination.

The attacks are devastating, cruel, and so wrong. As many of us who understand the violation that comes from being attacked- US, UK, Spain, India, Indonesia, Canada- anger is a natural and appropriate reaction. However, the danger of directing that anger towards the closest Muslim in sight threatens a fragile balance of tolerance.  Our countries thrive because we believe in process, justice, and fairness. Letting the anger engulf us and descend to racial and religious hatred sets us backwards, and makes us become the very people that attacked us- vicious, narrow-minded, and driven by hatred.

So I cry for Charlie. The perpetrators must be caught and brought to justice.  Families have lost their loved ones needlessly and they are owed closure. But I am not Charlie. I don’t subscribe to his sense of humor. We need to face the facts. Charlie Hedbo published obscene offensive provocative deliberate cartoons. And the volume of those cartoons of late had been targeted viciously at Islam. This fact does in no way justify the attack. The violence is simply not defensible. Now do I even suggest the victims “earned” it; they are the victims. But this fact needs to be taken into account as we, the public, react and lash back. As the saying goes: with freedom of speech, comes great responsibility. And in this time, I need to rise above, do my part, to endeavor to live what I believe- honor, respect, and tolerance for our fellow mankind. That is what makes our society thrive.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it
~ Evelyn Beatrice Hall, in “Voltaire”

And then there are people who are plain jerks..

I can be frugal, to a fault, although I like to think that has faded with my time overseas, and possibly also with a growing savings account. I’ve been known to cut coupons, wait for the sales.

Thanks to my mom, I even go to supermarkets for price adjustments if something goes on sale a day after I made a purchase. My mom is even more hardcore- she remembers prices and spots mistakes in charges before she even leaves the store.

But, this guy is beyond over the top.. and just a plain jerk, don’t you think? I can understand being surprised by the price.. but should have just stopped with with $4.

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I think I’m in the mood for some Chinese the next time I’m in town.. and willing to leave a $4 tip. $12 if it’s a big order.

Read the full article on Boston.com. Although you gotta admit, the emails really say it all.

 

Postscript: Apparently that article went viral. Follow up:

– Response from the restaurant to the public outcry: Now, that’s just the epitome of class and grace.
Thanks but no thanks.”
– 
Response from the professor: Sometimes, it’s best to just recognize when you’re wrong.
I’m sorry.” 

You can’t make this stuff up: Nairobi Airport, post-fire

As luck would have it, the day of the international news headline Nairobi airport fire… was the day my family and I were supposed to fly out of Kenya.

My family’s route deserves a post of its own. They eventually made it out a few days later. I ended up having to wait until the following Tuesday, 6 days after my planned departure, to fly out.

My friends and my colleagues like to use this statement: “You can’t make this stuff up.” Often in reference to an experience or a story so bizarre it can only be true. My experience out of Nairobi airport, the reopened version fit right in that category.

I gave myself three hours before departure for commute, airport back up, and check in process.. It was sufficient.

First was the sheer traffic getting into the approach to the “terminal”.. it’s jammed and there is barely any length for cars to pull over and drop passengers off. Cars are not permitted to loiter, but given the little room to work with and the likelihood that foreign tourists will travel heavy, delays were inevitable. The cars crept once approaching the airport.. some passengers just unloaded early and dragged their suitcases by foot, weaving between the vehicles.

The drop off / pick up point looked like this from the car:

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We had to push/pull our bags through what would normally be the driving in area of the international terminal. It was quite a scenic route. First, the Kenyan Airways checking tent and waiting area, for the domestic flights:

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And, of course, I wasn’t going to not at least attempt to get a snap of the infamous building, even with the fire out. Apologies for the blurry nature of the photos.. my p&s was dying with the focus not working as well as it once did, even in low lit situations.. this set of photos would be its last job.

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We actually checked into our flights at the actual international departures building. We just couldn’t get to the upper level where the “secure” area would have been. We went to our airline counters, checked in as normal, then queue up for the longest line to immigration.

A few passengers tried to cut the line, especially when an airline representative came around calling for Swiss passengers and that the flight was boarding. Surprisingly, the immigration officers snapped at the passengers who abruptly rushed up, stating firmly that there was a line and they were to respect it. Honestly, it was unexpected in a culture where rushing up en mass was not unheard of. Fortunately for those harried passengers, the rest of us in line told the immigration officer we were fine with letting them go ahead of us to catch their flight.

After passing immigration, we had to backtrack into the check-in hall, walk to the end of the building, and run our bags through x-rays before walking through a rather obscure door… that was where it got fun…

Because the door was normally used by the baggage handlers:

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Our “lounge”, and, yes, there was even a sign indicating that, was a large banquet tent pitched in what is normally Gate 9 for the plane to park.

Someone with a megaphone would yell boarding announcements.. most of which was garbled because in addition to a thick accent, he was placing the mouthpiece too close to his mouth. So of course no one understood him. A friend commented “Maybe that’s the point?” Passengers for announced flights would step forward from the tent. Depending on where the plane is, passengers would either walk or be bused over once their boarding pass is checked.

British Airways was the only airline that had its special set up to include an x-ray, after passengers queued up and got their tickets scanned at a kiosk. I can’t blame them. I found the x-ray “after” immigration to be lax. Heathrow and BA had every right to insist on a check. They not only x-rayed all bags, but also selected every second or third person for a manual bag check, which was quite thorough.

I was impressed. Vastly amused initially, but ultimately impressed. Passengers didn’t throw temper tantrums or demanded answers with hostility. There was a lot of confusion given the lack of signs and the gibberish announcements but people were surprisingly patient with the situations.

Likewise, the ground staff were amazingly organized. All wearing reflective jackets, if they didn’t know answers, they directed us to someone who would. They approached every passenger emerging from the secret wardrobe door to ask which flight, which airline and directed the individual where to walk. Not that much of it made any sense, but they didn’t wait to be approached, but were proactive in approaching us.

Our flight departed 10 minutes late.

Dulles and Heathrow do worse in a fully functioning airport with a clear weather day.