In regards to questions as to why everyone is concerned about Paris, but not about Beirut, the Russian plane, or (the months-ago attack on) Kenya, I think much of it is because so many of us have absorbed “Paris” over the years.
The French capital has what is probably the most iconic landmark ever, one that most westerners recognize. I doubt that the Houses of Parliament in London (hey, a big building!) are as instantly recognizable, nor the Washington Monument (hey, an obelisk!). People who have lived in Munich will recognize the Frauenkirche, but otherwise it looks “like a European cathedral.” Prague’s Charles Bridge is a bridge. Edinburgh’s castle is a castle. King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein (the model for Sleeping Beauty’s castle) might be as recognizable, but many people won’t know just where it is. The same, even, for Mount Rushmore — what’s the closest city? (Air Force brats from Ellsworth AFB, you’re ineligible to play)
The Eiffel Tower, though — everyone knows what it is and everyone knows where it is.
In music, we have the song “I Love Paris,” but not “I Love Beirut.”
Gershwin embraced “An American in Paris,” but not “An American in Lebanon.”
Louis Armstrong played “April in Paris,” but not “April in Syria.”
Nelson Riddle blamed it on Paree, but didn’t blame Jerusalem (neither Palestinian nor Israeli).
In the realm of the seductive, many 1950s mothers were honored on birthdays and Mothers Day with eau de Cologne named Evening in Paris, but I don’t think anyone ever received cedar-scented Evening in Lebanon.
Cinematically, we do have From Russia With Love, and Dr. Zhivago. Out of Africa, based on Isak Dinesin’s stories, was gorgeous. Those movies are iconic, but reflect the few filmed stories about specific places. New York probably is as well-filmed as Paris, but I don’t know that The Big Apple has the same aura as The City of Light. The list of movies set in Paris is, to be trite, a laundry list.
Irma la Douce
Julie and Julia
Three Men and a Cradle
The Red Balloon
Around the World in 80 Days
Midnight in Paris
An American in Paris
The da Vinci Code
Last Tango in Paris
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Phantom of the Opera
The Pink Panther
The Day of the Jackal
and many more
The recent attacks that didn’t get the spotlight that has shone on Paris are just as tragically important. The people who died in the other attacks died just as horribly and uselessly as those who died in Paris. Their families are equally devastated. They need to be recognized and work needs to continue to keep anyone from being mown down, decapitated, executed, or blown up. It is a long work.
What we probably don’t need to do is unnecessarily beat ourselves up for not feeling those attacks as viscerally as we did the attacks in Paris. We know about the other places, but we love Paris.
Let us use that to recognize the human suffering among all people who were attacked.