Monuments and Mourning

In Memorial Mania, Doss states that “temporary memorials create a public place for individuals and communities united in grief and often anger” (pg 68), a statement which definitely rings true as I think about the time I happened upon the temporary memorials to the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015. Parisiens and visitors alike traveled to the makeshift memorials, contributing flowers and paying respects and it seemed like the temporary memorials gave memorials mourners a way “do something” in a time of helplessness or fear.  Visiting the memorial brought up many of the feelings I remember experiencing as a teenaged New Yorker in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks—fear, anger, profound sorrow and sadness for the victims and their families.

My friend Kevin’s photos of the temporary memorial at the Marianne monument

Interestingly, one of the larger temporary memorials was created at the base of a large, bronze,  graffitied  statue of “Marianne”, “a feminized symbol of revolution and liberty”, (pg 20) surrounded by allegorical statues representing liberty, equality, and fraternity.  It made a fitting location for a memorial, not only because of its proximity to the Bataclan theater, where the largest attack took place, but also because Marianne, as Doss explains, was created in determination to “unite the French body politic around a consensual national mythology.” (pg 20) Large terror attacks such as the ones that took place in Paris in November 2015 are viewed as an attack on the nation, much in the way that the 9/11 attacks are seen as “an assault on American innocence” (pg 120).

The statue of Marianne (accompanied by Liberte, Equalite, and Fraternite), in the Place de la Republique in Paris

As I looked at the flowers and stuffed animals at the foot of this representation of French nationalism, an allegory which doesn’t come close to representing the true diversity of Paris and of France, and I thought about the calls for unity and national pride I wondered— does this “E Pluribus Unum” mentality that pervades the mourning of national tragedies create space for groups whose marginalization may have laid the groundwork for the tragedy itself?

Photos taken by teammate Kevin in Paris. The Eiffel Tower, itself a symbol of Paris and of France, was illuminated with the colors of the French flag for one week after the attacks.

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