Dismissed and wooed as so-called millennials, a young French generation supplied both the targets and perpetrators of the Paris attack. Simple answers are nowhere to be found, though maybe this label will stick.
I've got to move, I just can't stop
When I see the deuce yeah she's lit to pop oh
Yeah the deuce can boogie
PARIS — "The Deuce" is one of my favorite songs on the latest album of Eagles of Death Metal. It's a fuzzy, hip-shaking, cheeky diddy of a song that captures the essence of the Californian band's bawdy take on desert rock. (Yes, the band name is ironic) There really is only one reason I've been listening to their music for the past 10 years: just for fun.
I'm not sure I will ever listen to them again in quite the same way, and who knows when I'll stop running through the number of circumstances (three) that led me to finally not go to their concert last Friday at the Bataclan theater.
When the terrorists went on their rampage, I was safely out of town with my wife, visiting good friends in the eastern city of Metz. As the death count rose through the night, the four of us each did our best with our fast-texting fingers to confirm the whereabouts of our respective and shared loved ones. We sat numbly in front of the TV watching the latest updates and flashing images of a neighborhood where I work, bars and restaurants I know, and a concert hall where I have indeed had my share of fun.
Five days later, I am still numb as I search for the words to write.
In January, when terrorists attacked Charlie Hebdo — also disturbingly close to our Worldcrunch office here in the 11th arrondissement — the words came pouring out that same day as the twisted motivation behind the attack became instantly and abundantly clear. Shock gave way to sorrow which gave way to anger.
It was already hard enough to think that drawing could get you killed, but it was the liberté d'expression that was in the crosshairs, not the liberté d'existence.
As it turns out, no one I knew directly was harmed Friday. My little universe was left completely untouched, which is something of a miracle, considering the music I listen to, the streets I roam, or the mere fact that I'm 28.
That is the same age as at least six of the victims, capable of the best; the same age as one of the perpetrators, guilty of the worst. The future of France.
The French daily Libération, founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and still run by his successors, the children of the "68 social revolution, were the first to note on Monday that even if this attack was distinguished from January's by the seeming randomness of the slaughter, there was actually a specific, symbolic target chosen this time as well: the "Génération Bataclan."
Moved as I was by the coverage, I couldn't quite connect with the newspaper's description of the "bourgeois, progressive, cosmopolitan, hedonistic" wine-loving French youth the paper was describing. Were the editors projecting their youthful past onto current events? The lyrical tone seemed at odds with my longing for thoughts that were both simpler, and more specific to 2015.
It's not easy with this complexity, the band would sing.
My peers and I have already had to live with our fair share of (international) labels: Gen Y, Milllennials, Hipsters. Bring "em on. But at least in France, now we may have one that actually says something — sadly, about both the desires and the fundamental insecurity (not just physical) with which we live. If "Génération Bataclan" does exist, it's big, and it's hurt. Though more convinced than ever that the diversity, the mixité, of today's France is our only real salvation, we are starting to feel helpless in the face of all those who think the opposite.
So what do we do now? Are we really at war, as the French president says? Our wise elders over at Libération are right: We are unwilling to give up on the insouciance young Parisians have always taken as a human right. And yet we must learn to live with the reality that some people who share both our city and our smartphones, spurred on by a warped calling from God, see it as a capital crime.
For now, we are still grieving. Again. We'd thought the "Je Suis Charlie" graffiti on the Place de la République would in time be washed away into memories we could make sense of. We didn't think there would be other candles to light before the January ones had gone out.
I'm looking forward to going back to having nightmares only when I've drunk too much red wine. To not pricking up my ears at the sound of every slamming door or every passing siren. To not thinking twice about going out to eat with friends, or to a concert, because, you see, I've got to move, I just can't stop.
It's been pretty windy in Paris the past few days, not scary windy, but the kind that makes you aware of how the physical world can sometimes mirror your feelings. And so this mourning city has gotten the chorus of a very different song stuck in my head: that of Leonard Cohen's version of "The Partisan."
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing
Through the graves the wind is blowing,
Freedom soon will come;
Then we'll come from the shadows.