The Paris Attacks and the Grief Shaming That Followed

Two women stand outside the Petit Cambodge restaurant, a site of last Friday's attacks, in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Fra
Two women stand outside the Petit Cambodge restaurant, a site of last Friday's attacks, in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. France made an unprecedented demand on Tuesday for its European Union allies to support its military action against the Islamic State group as it launched new airstrikes on the militants' Syrian stronghold, days after attacks in Paris linked to the group killed at least 129 people. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Are you reading the onslaught of criticism over changing your profile to the color of the French flag?

My Facebook feed includes these comments: "If you didn't change it for the Beirut attacks or the refugee crisis, why now?"

And, "You shouldn't pray for Paris because it's a practice grounded in religion." An article quickly circulating among my liberal friends suggest solidarity with Paris is embarrassingly misguided.

Our empathy and our grief is individual. There is no wrong way to love, or to grieve, or to pray.
But to hold collective grief, we need to be free of judgment and fear. The belief that changing your profile picture is embarrassingly narrow-minded assumes we don't grieve for other victims of terrorism. We do. But individually, we respond to world events with different timing and with different levels of empathy based on our familiarity, our history and our knowledge of the people or places involved.

One of the most memorable images after the horror of 9/11 was the picture of dozens of French citizens unfurling a huge American flag on the grounds in front of the Eiffel Tower. French President Jacque Chirac was the first foreign diplomat to fly to the U.S. and toured the crater that was the World Trade Tower. I remembered those acts of kindness.

We shouldn't refuse a gesture of love, an act of simple gratitude, or a nod to solidarity because it's not big enough. Every profile page turned to the color of France's flag creates a momentary awareness of the trauma of terrorism, no matter where it strikes. I'm going to pray (to no God in particular) because it quiets my heart. And I'll keep my profile the color of the French flag because, for now, it's the easiest way to say, "Me too."

Next spring, I'll show solidarity another way. I hope to fly to Paris with three educated daughters, drink good wine with my husband and dance to loud music in a nightclub. To the people of the City of Light, we hear you.

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