Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My heart goes out to the families and all that have been touched by the horrific tornado that decimated Moore, Oklahoma. Watching the video of the storm, I was transfixed by the twister's howl. The sound rung in my ears long after, as memories from childhood rose to the surface. I lived in Mason, Michigan from the ages of seven to eleven. During that time, two tornados passed over the town. In both instances, I was struck by the utter quiet beforehand, that even the birds stopped singing and the sky sucked into itself like a bruise. And in the second case, I was at my elementary school. We stayed in the classroom until the windows began to shake, then were lead outdoors hand in hand, backs against the building's brick walls, to the underground shelter. We were there for quite some time. Some of the other children began to cry and our teacher's comforted us, just as the teacher's in Moore must have done. I have the greatest respect for their bravery and efforts.

I had already been thinking about the power of Nature over the previous few days. Just when we thought that spring had finally arrived, the rains came and more fell in a day than in the month past. The Rhone, that rife river that borders our town, rose over night to the highest levels that I have seen in the past eight years that I have seen since calling Arles home. As I arrived the morning after with the dogs for our morning walk, my jaw dropped in surprise. Our walkway along the quay had been covered, blocked off with a current strong enough to pull entire trees, ripped from their roots, down and down. We all stopped, listening to current's roar. Nature's force is also to be respected. And feared.

Last night the word "respect" was evoked in a context that disturbed me greatly. Dominique Venner, a 78 year-old essayist and activist of the extreme right in France, walked into Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral at a little after 4 p.m., left a letter on the altar and then shot himself in the mouth. Fifteen hundred visitors were evacuated. And while the contents of the letter have not been yet made public, Venner wrote a post on his blog on Tuesday denouncing the same-sex marriage law that has recently been signed into law in France as well as warning of the country's takeover by "Islamists." He said his act was "a call to sacrifice"--that symbolic gestures such as his were needed more than words--especially regarding the upcoming protest against same-sex marriage on May 26. Upon hearing the news of Venner's act, Marine Le Pen, the head of the Front National political party, which is also extreme right, offered "all of our respect to Dominique Venner" and that his "eminently political"  suicide was meant to "wake up the people of France." While Dominique Venner was considered to be a marginal of the extreme right, Marine Le Pen is its queen, one who received over 20% of the popular vote in certain regions during the previous presidential election and is a front-runner for the next. Her vision of respect frightens me as I believe equality is an integral part of its meaning. And that hatred or intolerance are its antonym. 

I didn't sleep well because of it and so was still slightly groggy as I headed back to the house with the dogs. A screech of tires pushed me awake as a long black Audi went the wrong way on a one way side street to cut over to the main street in front of our house. I pulled the dogs up on to the sidewalk just in time. The driver's face was impassive. As I turned the corner, I was amazed to see a huge delivery truck barrelling towards us and the black Audi--now stopped and pulled half way into an alley--also going the wrong way down this, another one way street. The van slammed to a halt and the young driver asked the woman in the Audi if she could pull forward a yard so that he could pass. She blankly refused without offering an explanation. He begged her, "Please Madame, please," explaining that he was blocked in behind, then slowly became angry in frustration. She became equally so and would not move. I could hear their yelling escalate as I quickly herded the dogs indoors. From the window above, I watched along with the local shop-keepers who had cell phones in hand ready to call the police. Finally, the truck driver said, "Fine, if you aren't going to move, then I will make you move." He got back into his truck and made to ram the Audi, skidding to a halt at the last moment. The woman stared at him stonily. He slowly backed the truck with difficulty down the way he had come, returning at a run to spit on the windshield of the Audi while pounding the hood. After he had left, the woman waited until she was sure he had gone, then leisurely made the move he has asked of her. It was so easy and only took a minute. Does the fact that this woman was white and the young man was of North African descent have something to do with how things played out? I don't know. But both showed a lack of respect. For the law, for our fellow human beings and animals. 

There seems to be a violence in the air, literally and figuratively. 

So stay safe everyone. And let us be respectful of all that is around us. 

And within us too.


  1. Oh Boy! You raised a lot of pointed examples. Last one first. If you live in France, this cannot be your first example of the way drivers behave. It probably did have an undercurrent of racism, but also the imprint left on a female driver who has habitually been treated with aggression by the wheeled males of the species and saw her chance to get some pay-back. (I'm not saying she was right, btw).
    As to Venner's suicide, what a narcissistic, selfish ass. We watch the French news and political talk shows. I don't understand what people are afraid of. The argument that a gay couple are not fit to adopt a child only holds water if the heterosexual couples who have children are all doing a great job, in comparison, and we know that's not true. Most children aren't even in homes with two parents, let alone those in loving, respectful relationships.You don't even have to delve deeply into their home life. All you need is to see the little thugs who are out on the streets doing willful damage, in the guise of celebrating sports events.
    Oklahoma is sad and terrible news but, unlike France, people are reaching out to help one another. For that alone, I love this, my adopted country.

  2. We are seeing frightening things all over the world or does it only seem so because news travels so fast these days? But it is good that is does. Second or third-generation immigrants have been rioting in a Stockholm suburb for days now because of racism and their discontent with their social situation. In Sweden! Four and five-year-olds are being raped and tortured in India, where - so I just read - some 90,000 children disappear annually some 34,000 of which are never found. Not to mention the millions who don't even have food, clean water or drugs to survive. And in the midst of all this misery, some people have the nerve to claim they are the authority to determine which kind of love and respect can be accepted. Mankind certainly has so much to learn about love and respect that you sometimes feel totally discouraged.

  3. dearest Heather

    a Powerful Piece indeed.

    bravo, lady.


    the world is changing and as we can see, not everyone is excited about it.

    well. we. are.

    when we get down about racism, sexism, homophobia (and ignorance), we like to watch the musical Hair.

    it makes the hairs on our arm stick up all tingly.

    thank you for writing this piece.


    _tg xx

  4. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the grief and tragedies we encounter, I know I have many times. Whether by the hatred of man (which I translate often to fear or ego) or by the disasters of the incredible world we live in. But I have found that in the wake of these disasters, whether by man or nature, the good rise up, helping, loving, encouraging one another. It brings the best out of the best, and the worst out of the worst. People want to be heard, whether we agree with what they say. If we all try to listen to one another a little bit better, maybe wisdom will prevail. Our world provides more than we give it credit for. A tornado destroys and we can't believe it can be so powerful, the sun rises everyday, and yet do we give thanks for that each day. I grieve for the victims of these tragedies, I am so thankful for the amazing and loving people that come from everywhere to help. Love and kindness and respect will prevail.

    1. such wise words...puts it back in perspective...

  5. I thought that episodes like you mentioned only happened in Malta but I see that they are common everywhere :( I sense a deep anger and resentment in the people of Europe. I fear that the far right movement will continue to thrive and to grow in many countries - not just in France - we are seeing it here too. Sometimes I wonder what the future holds, but I try not to think about it too much.

  6. And added to this is the disgusting act perpetuated in London overnight (well, our overnight, I mean)...broad daylight in London....

    But, as Andrew keeps reminding me when these things occur, there are less wars & atrocities in the world than ever before...(on a numerical scale) ....especially in the light of the last 500 while human nature can be despicable, it also has the capacity to learn and don't lose hope yet.

  7. Respect. Live and let live. These are the mottos we should live by. But when we see behavior that is violent, senseless, and cruel, we must bear witness as you have done here. It is conversations like these that raise awareness, help us learn and evolve, and give us hope.

  8. Heather,
    Your post touched me! Oh yes indeed we must have respect for nature.
    You made me thinking this morning!! Well done!

  9. My heart goes out to the people of Moore Okalahoma and I pray for a speedy recovery. Unfortunately I have nothing positive to say about Dominique Venner, a foolish man to be sure. He took his life over same-sex marriage, why? He’s against people loving one another? I think it’s more important to love another human being and be loved then worry what’s going on in someone’s bedroom. I’ll leave it at that. It’s been pouring buckets here for days and I’m looking forward to getting out and working in my gardens.


  10. I think we can only hope that people will act nobly and that the slings and arrows of nature will land softly to our side: good post.

  11. I say Venner doth protest too much, leading me to wonder about his own history with love and his physical and mental health as well. Respect for one another would solve so many of the problems in this world, and if we created unity, we could help our mother earth instead of destroy her through hatred and greed.

  12. Dear Heather,

    What a good posting (and equally engaging reponses).

    For all it's worth, and towards whatever "comfort" this might provide (probably only the minimal one of knowing that you're not alone or necessarily original in your concerns)?'s yet another poem for you.

    Edna St. Vincent Millay (yup....her again....but your writings/concerns inevitably remind me of hers, for various thematic reasons) wrote the following sonnet in, I believe, either 1938 or 1939.....a time when anyone with half a brain could see the storm clouds gathering.

    The sonnet's not exactly a heart-warmer and rib-tickler, but I think it is restorative to regularly remind ourselves (as one of your previous commenters wisely suggested) that this is not the FIRST time such fears have troubled folks' days.

    "Upon this age, that never speaks its mind,
    This furtive age, this age endowed with power
    To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
    Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
    What swims before his prow, what swirls behind ---
    Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
    Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
    Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
    Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
    Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
    To weave it into fabric; undefiled
    Proceeds pure Science, and has her say; but still
    Upon this world from the collective womb
    Is spewed all day the red triumphant child. "

    Best wishes to you and Remi,

    David Terry

    1. P.S. I do have to admit that (while I'm not, as a very general rule, the sort to be glad that some supposedly "PURE RACE" Christian shot himself through the mouth in front of the altar of a church, while at last 700 people were standing nearby?....).....

      I've got to say that I was very glad to read, this morning, that Venner's doing so provided the bait for Mister Le Pen's daughter (who's been duly trotted out as more "vote-able" and "like-able" "Game=-changer") to come out and finally show her true colors as she expressed her right-wing's sorrow over that vicious man's "sacrifice".

      "Blccchhh", is all I have to say. As far as I'm concerned, Venner can join Unity Mitford (google her, if you don't know who she was) in whatever weird purgatory is reserved for shooting one's-self through the head just to prove some already-known, right-wing point that didn't "win" in the most recent election.

      You would think that anyone his age would have the sense to realize that, given that he's FRENCH and living in FRANCE, he probably wouldn't have to wait more than another twenty years before another wave of anti-Dreyfusard, or colllaborationist, anti-Algerian, or whatever-wave would come along to buoy him up, along with all of his fears and prejudices.

      France is famous for these waves of hatred and prejudice, quite aside (or perhaps not at all) from its reputation as the land of croissants and chanel-suits.

      All done and said?....I was raised to know that I should commend Monsieur Venner to his own conscience, whatever god he seems to acknowledge, and promptly recall that he (having taken his own gun to his own head) wouldn'tm, by any standards, be among my personal concerns. since I'm not his him, his consicnence, nor his priest.


      david terry

  13. What a juxtaposition our two blogs are today. I had difficulty writing my post because I was so overwhelmed by the kindness, the warmth, the commitment and loyalty of the person of whom I was writing, that words seemed to fail me. Reading your post reminds me of just the opposite in man/woman-kind. Good to keep balance in our lives I guess. . .although. . .sigh. Hope you have a good and safe weekend! hugs, Jackie

  14. Thank you for speaking out on this subject, Heather, and prompting civil discourse in the face of instances of gross incivility and violence.

    I too have been very disturbed by recent homophobic violence in New York City and Paris, including M. Venner's action, and by Ms. LePin's "tribute" to M. Venner. It is almost impossible for me to write about it with any clarity, since homophobia so directly and devastatingly impacts me and my family. While respect is an essential component to peaceful co-existence of those with widely-divergent viewpoints, you are absolutely right...equality is an integral part of that respect.

    The weather here also mirrors the turmoil of the human world, as torrential rain and high wind have pummeled us for the last 48 hours or so (after weeks of a bucolic, warm spring). I cling to the gentle peacefulness and kindness that I encounter on the street here while I prepare for the next foray into the wider world so rife with hostility and worse.

    I hope you have a restorative weekend. Fondly, Leslie in Portland, Oregon

  15. Dear Heather, it's been so hard to write anything about the recent madness. Someone compared Venner to Mishima, who killed himself by botched disemboweling as a political statement. What nonsense. What insanity. And I've seen these driver stand-offs here as well. We've become polarized on all levels, politically, by our gender, age, economic status... the challenge of being able to see our own humanity in others, our connection to others has never been greater nor more critical. And yet, as a wise man once said, to see God in others, you must have special eyes. And heart. Je t'embrasse

  16. Dear George.....

    You are one smart man.

    I expect we all wish there were more like you.

    Admiringly, and thanks in particular for the final lines in your response.

    ---David Terry

  17. Such insanity! I cannot even begin to imagine how one gets to be so angry they would kill themselves to make such a hateful statement. It really is frightening.

    Clare x


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