A MAN of sorrow and great humanity is speaking as I begin to type. His words are ones everyone should hear.
News comes to us in so many different ways these days, and I was ‘introduced’ to Antoine Leiris, above, while wasting time on Facebook. This bereaved husband of a young woman who died in the Paris attacks yesterday delivered an eloquent memorial to his wife Hélène Muyal. She was killed by gunmen in the atrocity at the Bataclan concert hall last Friday night.
Antoine’s message was soon everywhere and it is easy to see why. Speaking only hours after viewing the body of his 35-year-old wife, the French radio journalist vows that he and his 17-month-old son will never live in fear of terrorists.
He titles his message: ‘You will not have my hatred’ – and those words alone carry great weight. Hatred is obvious and it takes great powers of dignity and restraint to muster such a response. Antoine speaks in English and his words are calm and reasoned, while being delivered with an affecting tremor of sorrow. His statement is worth seeking out in full, worth listening to in full, but here is a taster…
“On Friday evening you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.
“I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife is a wound in his heart.
“So no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. You want it, but to respond to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.”
Antoine’s wife, a makeup artist, was among the 89 people killed when gunmen opened fire during a gig by the US rock band Eagles of Death Metal. Her husband says that he has just seen her body after and that “she was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago”.
Every death in the Paris attacks will have been as tragic in their own way, but sometimes it takes someone speaking with utter clarity to push aside the mists of incomprehension.
Antoine seems to be saying that those who killed the love of his life are not worthy of his contempt. In his always useful guide to philosophy, The Meaning of Things, AC Grayling devotes two pages to hate, saying at one point: “Someone truly contemptible does not merit the energy that stronger emotions require” – and that perhaps is where this grieving Frenchman is coming from.
Grayling ends his chapter on hate with a quotation from Sartre. It seems fitting to include these words from the French philosopher and writer: “It is enough that one man hate another for hate to gain, little by little, all of mankind.”
Hatred can grip a nation, understandably, and can breed further hatred of those who are different from us – and can, in France certainly, give sour succour to the far right. It can also lead to demands for action, which was why France sent in the bombers immediately after the Paris attacks.
David Cameron is already campaigning to win over MPs to an extension of airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State. This isn’t necessarily wrong – but neither is it necessarily right. Prime ministers like a bellicose response because it sounds tough and speaks the people’s language of revenge. Put crudely, Cameron wants to bomb the shit out of Islamic State in Syria because he then looks like a decisive man who is doing something to eradicate this lethal terrorist state.
Many MPs now support such an aim, including reportedly some 15 Labour MPs who are in opposition to their leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Cameron often spins that old Blairite line about dropping the bombs to protect people here in Britain. But is there any real proof that the one equals the other – or could it be the case that bombing where you hope the terrorists are hiding out just in the end creates more terrorists?
Yesterday four former US air force service members suggested this was the case. They warned Barack Obama that targeted killings by military drones had become a major driving force for terrorists groups such as Isis. In other words, an intended ‘good’ had turned into something ‘bad’.