The Guardian – Open Letter to President François Hollande


Text in full


Dear François Hollande,

I have a question for you:

Is this a WAR, as you claim?

Sorry but although I’m also caught in the heat of the moment and in “riverrun” of emotions after the Paris massacre, it may seem out of tune but I am shocked by your affirmation: “This time it’s WAR.”

No, Monsieur Hollande, it’s not! “It’s a terrorist attack”.

Of course, the French always break our hearts! And your café culture of existentialism and structuralism, your philosophers in general who see flies on walls and “think therefore they are”, like Descartes thinking Rimbaud thinking Artaud and all in the hardened mind of Rodin’s real thinker. It’s complicated, I know. Yet, your Your “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” and your Constitution, your Revolutions have taught the world huge lessons and are undeniably moving!

And that is precisely why I was so shocked to hear you say that “This time it’s WAR.” No, Monsieur Hollande. A WAR is something different than what just took place in Paris.

I’m writing this in a country that borders yours and I don’t hear a thing. If this were a war, my lights would be out and this article would probably not make it to print.

In fact, this planet has rarely enjoyed a 70 year period of (relative) peace. And I’m kind of hoping we can stretch that.

You heard me, Monsieur Hollande.

And by relative peace I don’t mean to overlook the unnecessary atrocities of Vietnam, Cambodia or Korea. Or, even, Rwanda (and I could go on and on pointing out the miscarriages of geopolitical pros and cons, ambushes here and there), until it all comes to a sudden HALT, right in front of my window, on the East River, at barely past 8 in the morning when two planes hit the gigantic towers of the World Trade Center. Yes, that was, for us then, a WAR.

Nobody in the US had ever seen a spectacle like it. I saw it live, the whole thing, till the end, the cascading collapse of it all, the rubble, the mushroom cloud of ash, the burning asbestos, the 3 thousand burning souls. Yes, read whatever metaphor you want into it. But there will be none that matches the sadness and hatred and fear of this era we’ve come to live in, Mr. Hollande.

9/11 changed the course of History and, well. You know the rest. What I’m afraid of this time, is what I was afraid of when a certain Mr. “W” plus a Cheney and an Ashcroft, a Rumsfeld (can you hear the earth tremors?) decided for all the wrong reasons to endanger our existence. And so they have. This gang and this gang alone has put our lives in danger forever and here is where you, Mr. Hollande, come in to the equation.

At that time, in 2003, France did everything right and did not invade Iraq, since Saddam, surely a bad SOB, did not pose a threat to our existence and did not have any WMDs.

Now, all this ISIS garbage is, as you well know, nothing but bad mixture of left overs from tribal wars between Sunnis and Shiites and a super well trained military army left over from Saddam’s Ba’ath Party. But what do I know? What do I know about Assad being an Allawite and the Curds and the Yazidis being eternally persecuted by all of them and what do I know about the dozens of dissidents within the splinter groups ever since the PLO had a huge fight with the Life of Bryan and John Cleese deciding to form a party of his own?

In all seriousness, dear reader, the concept of a REAL WAR is something you would not know unless you happen to be 90 years of age. Are you? I guess not. I’m only sixty one, but I did lose almost my entire family in concentration camps, so, I know.

A WAR engages ALL countries in the world and involves the Army, the Navy and the Air Force of All NATIONS.

Is this what’s happening?

NO !

In hindsight, we will look at this Paris tragedy with sadness, but that’s all. Just like we look at London July 7, 2005 with a lot of sadness, but that’s all.

Again, I’ll remind you: we have rarely enjoyed a 70 year period of (relative) peace on this planet as we do now.

Things have never been so good, in the field of human rights, in spite of the 35 million slaves, victims of human trafficking, in spite of so much abuse and starvation”, says a friend, when I complain about the online radicalization of the lunatic losers who join this idiotic cause (which, by the way, kills more Muslims than it does any other religious group put together).

These losers found a fun game to play with real weapons, instead of street gangs in the poor urban neighborhoods of our capitals.

A WAR is something else.

With no “SMARTbombs” or Drones, the Second World War left a death toll of something between 65 million and 75 dead. THAT IS WHAT A WORLD WAR DOES after 6 years.

Please remember that, between World War 1 and World War 2, there was only a short breathing space of 21 years.

Twenty one years and the entire thing begins again. Imagine that! That is why I insist on the 70 years of relative peace we enjoy.

Nowadays , a world war would probably kill 2.2 billion people. Imagine. That’s what wars are: huge unimaginable numbers.

Huge wars  like in WW2 where 12 million died in Hitler’s Germany (6 million only in Auschwitz), and in Stalin’s Soviet Union (an approximate 13 million) and it brought AIR RAIDS ( blitzes) over England, by the Nazis, where sirens went off and people had to hide in the ‘Underground’ or in bunkers. And, when they came out, there was nothing or little left.

Yet, Europe rebuilt.

Even Dresden, flattened by the Brits, rebuilt.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have rebuilt.

Yes, in a World War, they use ATOMIC BOMBS.

So, Monsieur Hollande: was this TERRORISM or WAR?

PLEASE THINK carefully before you incite the younger population of the world into thinking that the tragic death of 128 people was an act of war. It wasn’t.

WAR begins by signing a treaty. It is a strange thing.

Have you signed it? Did De Gaulle?

If, tomorrow morning, a household in Colorado turns on their lights and makes their coffee and says good morning to their dear ones or in Tokyo, a couple makes green tea and smiles to their kids and, say, in Rio, people make plans to go to the beach in Ipanema, Monsieur Hollande, I guarantee you: THIS IS NOT A WAR.


Gerald Thomas

Playwright, Theater and Opera Director


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November 19, 2015 · 1:37 pm

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