Another day the World stood still, and recoiled in repulsion as detestable acts of extreme violence were perpetrated by extremists against innocents. The theatre of the latest Danse Macabre was the head office of the French weekly satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. At approximately 11:30 CET two masked men armed with Kalashnikov rifles, a shotgun, and an RPG 7 attacked the newspaper’s headquarters, resulting in the deaths of 12 people and the wounding of 11 others.
Two of the deceased were police officers, one of which was tasked with guarding the offices and its staff.
Among those who died was Ahmed Merabet, a policeman on patrol at the time of the attack. He was wounded by the terrorists, who then proceeded to cold-bloodedly murder him as he lay prone on the pavement, begging for his life.
Take a good look at this photograph. It shows the last, violent moments of a man’s life as he is completely at the mercy of the men intent on killing him.
Moments later he was dead, coldly shot at point-blank range as if he were nothing more than a varmint. His provocation of his murderers? He put his hands up and surrendered.
Thinking of what it must be like, staring death in the face and being completely powerless to do anything about it terrifies me. I know full well that no man can choose the time and the place of his passing, or how he is going to die. Not even I am that arrogant. Yet I refuse to accept that I will have no say in such matters when someone tries to do me in, and that I am condemned to the default status of unwilling and helpless victim.
I do not know if Ahmed Merabet had the capacity to fight his attackers: eyewitness reports indicated that some of the first responding French police were unarmed, and were forced to withdraw until armed reinforcements could arrive on-scene. It is likely that he was unarmed as well.
It is uncertain if the officer inside the building was armed, and it is known that none of the staff were: French firearm laws are restrictive when it comes to owning and carrying guns for self-defence.
Perhaps if they were this story may have had a different ending. Perhaps less people would have died, or perhaps the entire thing could have been foiled at the very start. Perhaps.
Much like the pre-Christmas siege in the Sydney café, we will never know now. It is too late. It’s over.
What I do know is that if I am ever given the choice between lying down on the pavement and begging for my life, or fighting back with everything I have available, the latter option is by far the more comforting one. Even if I don’t make it, at least I may be able to take one of my attackers with me, and so doing possibly spare someone else’s life.
But for me to be able to do so, I must be allowed the tools and the capacity to resist. When a government takes those tools away from its people, for whatever reason, they are condemned to the status of victimhood.
There was a reason why the Secretary General of Interpol, Ronald Noble, considered armed citizenry as desirable during a press conference after the Westgate Mall attacks in Nairobi: they can stop terrorists and save lives.
Perhaps this is a lesson that we are in the process of learning, painfully and by enduring much tragedy and suffering. We cannot expect our governments and security forces to guarantee our safety. Keeping the enemy out is impossible: they will always find a way in.
When the last line of defence fails, you become the front line of defence.
La Marseillaise had the right idea,
|Allons enfants de la Patrie,||Arise, children of the Fatherland,|
|Le jour de gloire est arrivé !||The day of glory has arrived!|
|Contre nous de la tyrannie,||Against us tyranny|
|L’étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)||Raises its bloody banner (repeat)|
|Entendez-vous dans les campagnes||Do you hear, in the countryside,|
|Mugir ces féroces soldats ?||The roar of those ferocious soldiers?|
|Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras||They’re coming right into your arms|
|Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes !||To cut the throats of your sons and women!|
|Aux armes, citoyens,||To arms, citizens,|
|Formez vos bataillons,||Form your battalions,|
|Marchons, marchons !||Let’s march, let’s march!|
|Qu’un sang impur||Let an impure blood|
|Abreuve nos sillons ! (bis)||Water our furrows! (Repeat)|
These bloody and tragic events will not defeat France. The French have endured much, and will continue to endure much more. If there is one thing that these cowardly terrorists will learn, it is that one cannot kill ideas with bullets.
Vive la France!