No matter how oppressed some of us may feel by the sometimes radical statements and legislation of South Dakota's Christian fundamentalists, let us remember that our Christian friends don't kill us.

Gunmen attacked the Paris headquarters of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo this morning, killing twelve people and wounding seven. Witnesses heard the gunmen shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad."

Charlie Hebdo has flipped the bird at Islam in the past and paid a heavy price in violence committed by Muslim extremists:

In November 2011, its offices were fire-bombed after it had published a special edition, supposedly guest-edited by the prophet Muhammad and temporarily renamed “Charia Hebdo”. The cover was a cartoon of Muhammad threatening the readers with “a hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing”.

The petrol bomb attack completely destroyed the Paris offices, the magazine’s website was hacked and staff were subjected to death threats. But six days later, it published a front page depicting a male Charlie Hebdo cartoonist passionately kissing a bearded Muslim man in front of the charred aftermath of the bombing. The headline was: L’Amour plus fort que la haine (Love is stronger than hate) [Julian Borger, "Fight Intimidation with Controversy: Charlie Hebdo’s Response to Critics," UK Guardian, 2015.01.07].

charlie-hebdo-coverNo Christian offended by my blog commentary, criticism, and occasional satire has burned down my house or physically attacked me. When Kurt Evans* and Larry Kurtz badmouth the entire Catholic Church, good Catholics Troy Jones and Patrick Duffy don't get out the shotguns. The most vile Christian fundamentalists in America shout a lot, but they and their opponents trade slogans and signs, not bullets.

And as far as I know, no followers of Jesus are calling themselves the Christian State, waging terrorism, forcing conversions, and killing thousands of people to forge a Caliphate.

I am reminded of my friend Martin back in high school who wrote a letter to the editor when the local movie theater piously announced it would not be showing Martin Scorcese's Last Temptation of Christ. Martin, a devout Christian, and a fresh high school graduate—the same age as many of the Muslim jihadis propagandized and recruited by ISIS—wrote that his faith would not crumble before a strip of celluloid.

Evidently these gunmen and far too many Muslims believe their god and their prophet will fall before a drawing, a piece of paper, or an unkind word. They apparently do not believe that love is stronger than hate. They feel they must defile the City of Love, the City of Light, the City of Enlightenment, with their murderous fear, all because some harmless French dudes said silly things and drew silly pictures of a guy who's been dead for 1400 years.

A faith so fearful, hateful, and thus weak does not earn my tolerance, let alone my respect.

*Update 19:53 CST: We should note that Kurt Evans badmouthed one Catholic, not the entire Catholic Church, and even apologized for it, saying "it's wrong to use pejorative labels that devalue and dehumanize other people." But our Catholic friends perceived him to be badmouthing Catholics in general... and they still haven't shot him.

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The Tour de France concludes here in Paris tomorrow morning... after my plane leaves.

I rode a bus yesterday down the Champs Élysées, I returned later and walked by the finish line where the well-to-do will sit in white tents to view the racers.

But I've still seen plenty of bikes around the City of Lights, regular folks zooming along amidst hard-charging city traffic on two wheels and joie de vivre.

Stunt bicyclist in the Trocadéro

No, they aren't all stunt riders like the dude above hopping his two wheels around the Trocadéro across the Seine from La Tour Eiffel.

Cyclist on Pont des Arts, Paris, July 21, 2012

Take, for example, this perfectly sane woman who got off the street to cross the Seine via the Pont des Arts (Bridge of the Arts).

Oh, and all those things on the side of the bridge? Locks:

Locks on Pont des Arts, Paris, July 21, 2012

Amorous Parisiens and visitors have taken up the Venetian custom of writing their names on locks, fixing them to the side of the bridge, and throwing the key in the river as a sign of their eternal love. I saw a bike lock in the mix (alas, that pic is on my other camera!). And for those of you who think Europeans have given up on capitalism, a gentleman has joined the traditional bouquinistes on the Left Bank to sell padlocks at the south entrance to the bridge.

(By the way, see that other bridge through the locks? Pont Neuf.)

Love in Paris means riding together in downtown traffic:

Couple on City Bikes in downtown Paris traffic

The couple shown above is riding right next to our tour bus, in a busy downtown street. They are riding Parisian Vélib', two of over 20,000 public bikes available for rent at 1800 stations around the city.
Cyclist on Boulevard de Rochechouart, Paris, July, 21, 2012

On the Boulevard de Rochechouart, cyclists riding through Montmartre looking for the Moulin Rouge get their own lanes. Crossing the street from north to south you cross car lane, dividing strip, bike lane, wide shady pedestrian median, then bike path, divider and car lane.

Cyclist on Boulevard de Rochechouart

...and the occasional show-off. Riders ring their bells, and they expect you to cede them their lane.

Cyclist at Pont du Carrousel

Speaking of ringing your bell, this young woman was out taking a spin by the Pont du Carrousel tonight. No one will be wearing those shoes in the Tour de France.

But easy, fellas: this belle parisienne already has a boyfriend... who was bicycling with her along the Seine.

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We've all seen the Eiffel Tower in photos and film. The grand industrial-engineering-art project is so familiar that we might be tempted to think seeing the Tower in person could be a let down.

We would be wrong. I spent three hours looking at and climbing on the Eiffel Tower. I watched the sun set on Paris from its second observation deck. I drank hot chocolate from a café 38 stories above the ground to warm my hands. (I also had a beignet au chocolat... Why not a double dose? It's Paris!)

And I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle. Twice, the second time from Field of Mars, where at 11 p.m., hundreds of people from numerous countries were sitting on the grass night-picnicking and saying their latest native translation of Wow! That's cool!

Cory sees Eiffel Tower from bus

Good thing my bus buddy Chris woke me up... I almost missed it!

View of Paris from la Tour Montparnasse

View of Paris from la Tour Montparnasse

Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides

Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides

Sunset over La Defense, western Paris, viewed from Eiffel Tower, July 20, 2012

Sunset over La Defense, western Paris, viewed from Eiffel Tower, July 20, 2012

Lights sparkle on the Eiffel Tower

Lights sparkle on the Eiffel Tower

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Did I mention I'm in Paris?
CAH at the Louvre
Here I am at the Louvre, with our guy Pei's great glass pyramid out front. The drastic contrast the the architecture of the old fortress still doesn't well with some observers. But it creates a spectacularly light and airy entryway to the museum.

Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty Leading the People"

Maybe this painting is why some American conservatives get ants in their pants about France: they don't like women taking leadership roles in the fight for liberty.

Jacques-Louis David, "Le Sacre de Napoléon"

Jacques-Louis David, "Le Sacre de Napoléon

Just after the French got all excited about liberté, fraternité, and égalité, they let this bully declare himself emperor. You've got to watch out for those little guys who say they are fighting tyranny, only to become tyrants themselves.

Here's where Napoléon held that coronation, in Notre Dame de Paris.

Notre Dame de ParisRemarkable building, even to non-Catholics.

By the way, what does every hungry classical music aficionado need before heading to the supermarché for groceries?

Poster for Chopin and Liszt

You can see more of my Paris photos as I post them on my French teaching website, cah-spearfish.blogspot.com.

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