France is the world's top tourist destination and Paris is the most visited city in the world, with some 33 million tourists every year. People from all over the world vacation in Paris; we honeymoon there; we spend a college semester in Paris; we travel there to enjoy the music, art, food, and culture of one of the world's greatest cities. Visitors fall in love with Paris. Hundreds of millions of people cherish their memories of Paris -- time spent with lovers, spouses, families, friends, college buddies, or traveling companions. These wonderful memories create a deep bond with the City of Lights.
So of course we are shocked and grief-stricken by the tragedy of senseless slaughter in a city we love. Of course we color our Facebook faces blue, white and red. Of course we pour our hearts out on social media -- posting music, poetry, drawings and essays of sadness, confusion, pain and despair. We express our grief in many different ways, each reflecting our own personal French connection.
Yet there are those who scold us for our outpouring of grief in the wake of the Nov. 13th terrorist attacks on Paris. They try to make us feel guilty for not demonstrating the same grief over the slaughter in Beirut, Lebanon, just a day earlier, or the massacre in Kenya ... or other mass murders in other places around the world. Their intentions are good, but their guilt trip is not helpful. Grief is not about political correctness -- it is about love.
It's like telling me I should grieve as intensely for a complete stranger as I do for my best friend. Grief is about a personal connection -- it's about the closeness of the relationship with the person who died -- it's about love. The deeper our love, the closer our connection, the deeper our grief.
America has a particularly close relationship with France. The French came to our aid during the American Revolution -- without their help we probably would not have been able to break free of Britain and establish the United States as an independent country.
The French were early colonists in several parts of North America, including Louisiana, and their influence is still in evidence today. The French gave us our Statue of Liberty, reflecting our shared values. It was a French city planner who designed our nation's capitol, Washington, DC. In many different ways, France has played an important role in the history of our country.
We love France in ways that we don't love other countries. That doesn't mean we don't care at all about those others. It simply means that all relationships -- between countries and people -- are not the same. All people are created equal, but all relationships are not.
We share a history with France that we don't share with Lebanon or Kenya or any other country. We have a close relationship with France that we don't have with most other nations. We feel a deep affection and love for the French that we don't feel for others.
Does this mean we're racist? Of course not. Does it mean that we're bad people? No. Does it mean that we don't care about human beings in other countries? Heavens, no. Caring is not a zero-sum game. The special love we have for one nation does not mean we don't give a damn about other nations. It just means that we don't care about all nations in the same way.
It is natural and normal to care about people we're close to more than we care about those we don't know. It is human nature to feel more intense grief for those we love than those we've never met. Of course it is good to care about all human beings -- to have empathy for their suffering -- but we needn't feel guilty because we don't care about everyone in the same way.
Even within our own country, our own communities, our own families, we do not feel the same way about everyone. We have close relationships with some, friendly relationships with others, cordial but distant relationships with still others, and no relationship at all with many.
Do we care about everyone equally? No. Should we care about everyone equally? That's a question we must each answer for ourselves. As for me, I don't "should" on anybody -- about who they love, what they care about, or how they grieve.
Political correctness has no place in matters of the heart.