When a Trump-sized handful of France's billionaires can pledge nearly 1B Euros in a day to reconstruct Notre Dame, that certainly puts a lot of things into perspective. When the news of Notre Dame being on fire hit me, I felt a few different emotions, some of which were conflicting. First of all, it's not the first historic building to catch on fire and needed to be rebuilt. However, there's a lot of history and it is quite emotional to watch a piece of history and culture burn. It's also a place that I, like many, have had great memories of. I was even one of many who dug up a couple old photos to share. Still, what does it say about us when people can act so quickly to save an old building, while many either ignore or are completely unaware of the millions of people they could actually be helping? Not only that, but what people choose to save and what they choose to let fall away shows us what's wrong with our society.
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The story of Notre Dame is a tell-tale story of a Euro-centric dominated world. The world was horrified and people prayed and sang Ave Maria when they found out about Notre Dame being on fire. Where were they when SIX world heritage sites in Syria were destroyed? Is anyone going to rebuild Ummayad Mosque--the great mosque of Damascus? It's even older than Notre Dame and holds incomparable historical and cultural significance. It was a site for not just Muslims, but Christians, too, and before that Romans and Arameans. John the Baptist's head is buried there. Of course, Syria is still in a civil war; but still, where are the horrified people? Where are the billionaires who could one day rebuild this beautiful mosque? What about sacred Native American lands destroyed by pipelines and fracking?
The fire at Notre Dame is quite unfortunate. But what bothers me is that people are quicker to save an old building, than they are to save their neighbors. Millions of people in Yemen are starving, and civil war ravages numerous other countries leaving many without basic needs. Many of the other issues in today's world are more complicated to address than rebuilding an old cathedral, but again I ask, who are we when we will act quicker to save a building than our own neighbors? Or what does it say when we care only about certain cultures and histories, but leave others to be left in ruins.
It's interesting to me that this fire happened during Holy Week. For Christians, this is one of the most important weeks of the year. This is when Jesus walked into Jerusalem to sacrifice his life for us. As I saw images of the inside damage, the most fascinating photo I've seen of the whole ordeal is the gold cross standing tall and bright atop the rubble and destruction. Maybe because I am a Christian, and maybe because I am an eternal optimist, I find this image incredibly moving and powerful. It's a sign of the strength of our faith. But have we lost our way? Have we lost our faith? Ironically while France is still technically a Catholic country, much of the country has become largely atheist or apathetic towards religion, with some even mocking religion.
When the fire first broke out, it was sad, but again, it's not the first historical building to catch on fire and need rebuilding. It was always going to be rebuilt. That's part of its story and history now. But when suddenly billionaires come out (a very small number of them), and raise nearly 1B Euros in a day, it just feels like every other day, these billionaires and companies are just sitting around on their money until it suits their egos and their taxes to "help out." Of course, many of these companies do lots of great work throughout the year,. Francois-Henri Pinault is a leader in sustainable fashion. But still...this situation has put a lot of things in perspective. 1B Euros in a day? If we could care this much about other issues...oh boy.
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