“So ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what country on earth would you rather live? Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.”
— Excerpt from The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson, who most know as our third President, was preceded only by Benjamin Franklin in serving as Minister to France. Having served the public since well before our nation’s independence was tested and established, Jefferson carried with him the gratitude of a nation which without France’s help, might not exist as it does today.
It is difficult for many of us to imagine a world where the United States does not stand staunchly allied in political will and cultural interchange with the major powers of Europe, however at a time very early in our nation’s history, this was not the case. Our now-allies of the British Commonwealth deeply resented our secession, and even more so our alliance with their enemy, the French.
It is not so hard, however for most of us to understand a world in which there are those who hate our freedom, or way of life, even our very existence as a nation. Those of us who remember 9/11 remember well the fear and the heartache that event caused. The sudden realization that our nation is not invincible, our defenses not impenetrable, but also that we were not alone. Our strongest allies—France our oldest among them—stood at our side, hearts aching along with ours. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Last night our allies, our friends, our compatriots in a world that while imperfect in its striving for freedom strives nonetheless, were attacked in their capital of Paris. The acts of violence perpetrated by the so-called Islamic State, cowardly in their means, are not unlike those perpetrated by Al Qaeda fourteen years ago on our own soil. The terrorists who committed them were motivated by no-less-evil goals, that the liberty we celebrate be removed from our world.
Some will take this opportunity to politicize this attack for their own goals. Such is the ugly nature of representative politics in the changing era of instant information. Many will argue violence in the name of vengeful retribution. I will take no part in these arguments, condemn nor condone the politics. However I will say with millions of Americans at my side, as did the French for us fourteen years ago, that my heart aches for the people of France and my prayers are for them.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and might I add Solidarité.