Dispatch: One Day in Nice
Photos by Barry Kaufman
There are two things happening along the promenade in Nice, each of equal importance and beauty.
The first, a very visible outpouring of grief, sympathy, love and support from people all over the world stretching all along the railings of the promenade and spilling over into the grassy plains and grand gazebo of the Promenade du Paillon across the street. Acres worth of flowers, handwritten notes in every language known to man, dolls upon dolls upon dolls, pile up in a parade of universal grief and solidarity under the brilliant sun of the Cote d’Azur.
It’s not all locked arms and love. A T-shirt draped over a railing, blood smeared along the bottom rim, bears the message streaked in rough felt-tipped marker: “Fuck Terroriste – Black 14 Juliet Nice.” That, along with scattered handwritten notes decrying radical Islamic terrorism, paint a picture of grief tinted with a growing impatience for having to create so many monuments.
But that is just the first thing happening in Nice.
The second, happening just meters away, floods the heart with hope that someday we can stop creating these monuments. It takes the form of a giant day-glo yellow happy face, and a neon pink banner bearing a skull and cross bones. These designs are painted across parasails, hovering high across the jeweled blue waters of the Bay of Angels. Their shadows flit over the waves and onto the sands, where hundreds of sun worshippers play in the surf. Despite the tragedy, despite the camera crews still scouring the promenade for fresh b-roll of the aftermath, they celebrate life.
These are people for whom Nice is not just the latest target for whom we change our Facebook profile pictures. For them, Nice is as it always has been – a jewel in the incomparably dazzling crown of the south of France. A seaside town where boulanger greet the first rays of the sun with a tray full of fresh-baked baguettes, where the gentle waves beg to be waded into, where sights, sounds and smells coax visitors from all points of the globe.
There have been many attempts to paint this ongoing conflict, one that has resulted in too many monuments, as a religious war. But this is not, fundamentally, a war between Islam and the world. This is a war of ideologies, between two very different ways of valuing life.
On one side, the cowards of terror who value a human life only so far as it can serve as an instrument of death. To them, a child is born, learns to walk, learns to love, and grows into an adult only to become a set of hands on a steering wheel and a foot on a pedal and the cause of another memorial. They are slaves to their dogma of destruction and hatred.
On the other side, you have the rest of the world. You see this ideology on clearest display on that beach in Nice. To us, the value of human life is in the living. It’s in seeing this beautiful world for what it is – new sights to see, new experiences to revel in. Life isn’t always a sun-baked beach in the south of France, but when it is – we are the people who let its beauty change us for the better.
We are the ones who value life. The cowards can kills dozens of us or thousands of us at a time, but there will always be more of us. Just ask the people of Nice.
More by Barry Kaufman
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