Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and is in her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special. Her current endeavor, the Miami in Miami class taught by John W. Bailly, will take her on this journey of emerging her in her very hometown to discover all of its unknown and secret places. These are her Miami as Texts.
When people think about Miami, it is always the typical beaches, late night clubs, and other debauchery that is associated with the memory. When people try to describe Miami, it then focuses on the people who live here, which is always essential, they describe it as a melting pot of different races, religions, walks of life, and ethnicities. However, what people fail to realize is that this very concept is reflected in the city itself, its layout and its neighborhoods; and on September 11, 2019, we were able to fully explore this via the Miami Dade Metrorail, a vein that runs through the heart of Miami and its neighborhoods. In the 1980s, the metrorail was adding more stations and expanding in the post-World War II economic success that the U.S. was experiencing. However, as Miami’s city planning has proven to be inefficient, the city continued to grow and the metrorail simply could not keep up—the citizens needed more, and this has pushed the dependency of most people towards cars and private vehicles. Today, the metrorail, metromover, and the metrobus struggles with ridership as these other means continue beat out the rails despite it being less efficient. Today, we got to experience the true Miami for what it is, beyond its people, through the most efficient means: the metrorail. From the Lowe Art Museum, hosting two of the most incredible El Greco pieces—who was a Greek painting in Spain, how Miami is that—to Vizcaya’s unique blend of Europe, the Americas, and Tequestas to Overtown’s amazing Jackson’s Soul Food, these spots are all representative of the true Miami melting pot. Each neighborhood filled with some history that links all of us “Miamians” to one another and to our land. Too often we feel as though we never have any linkage to the city where we reside and call our hometowns, however, if you ever just take the time to look, as we did, you too will find your roots in Miami.
Downtown Miami as Text
Justice for None by Jessica Horsham of Florida International University in Downtown Miami on September 25, 2019.
Despite the cultural infusions that have been present for many years, no piece of land in the United States has served as an exception to racism, prejudice, and inequality that once was rampant. However, it is presumptuous to assume that though things have begun to heal, these scars no longer affect us in the “land of the free.” As a result, people continue to ignore these scars, there is no denying its remnants, even in our “diverse and progressive” city. As you walk through the streets of downtown, it is clear to notice one of the most prominent distinctions between the homeless, most of these disenfranchised people are black—how is this possible where are supposed to be considered equal in a land of opportunity? One of the most appalling stops was the Longhouse and its similarities to our current Miami Dade County Courthouse. Both of these structures that were meant to uphold justice for all were places wherein many injustices occurred to individuals who often times were innocent; they were only guilty because of their genes—a pigment in their skin. From slave houses to courthouses, our justice system in its most basic and tangible meaning has been built upon structures that continue to emphasize the paradoxical meaning of equality for all and innocence. In the front of our current justice building, the Miami Dade Courthouse, there is a plaque wherein our citizens are simply labeled as “negroes.” How do we let this derogatory and degrading plaque still stand? In a place of equality? This specific amnesia and ignorance surrounding our history and our current system is what allows these divisions to continue to divide our nation. This is the exact reason why I have chosen to practice law and dedicate my life to it. Too many times does the system designed to protect the innocence corrupt it and unequally punish its offenders. Our justice systems need those dedicated to fight for our citizens, rather than those motivated to send them to our overflowing prisons and ultimately change their lives and those around them forever. Justice is supposed to mean something more, to protect all people, its current affairs does not reflect that and that is why we must change it.
on ligne 7 was named after the Opera Garnier, which was built by Charles Garnier
between 1861 to 1875, during the Second Republic under Napoleon III. It has
been an established landmark in French and Parisian culture and has played a
prominent role in art. Fourteen painters, mosaicists, and over 73 sculptors
took part in creating the façade of this masterpiece of a building. The golden,
shining statues of Harmony and Poetry are just a glimpse into the beauty of the
eclectic house, with no spaces robbed of décor, colors, or theatrical effects. Not
only was it once the host of the Royal Academy of Music and the Paris Ballet,
but it was also the opera house from Phantom of the Opera, an iconic show and
movie that has continued to live on stages throughout the world. Despite its sewage
problems that are prevalent underground due to issues with its initial
construction, the ligne entrance for the Opera, rather than following the
typical, gothic art nouveau style has remained a marvelous, marble entrance over
fears that it would disrupt the aesthetic of the surrounding area
Garnier, otherwise known as the Paris Opera, embodies the culture of Paris and the
true establishment of French culture designated by Louis XIV, this was his goal.
Louis XIV restructured entire world politics and the French culture to dedicate
itself to opulence, fine arts, and to truly distinguish it from other
countries, such as Italy. The ever-decadent designs pay homage to the rulers throughout
French history. The Opera is an embodiment of distinguished French movements
throughout history as it combines rococo, iron framework, baroque, and classicism
all blended together. Even today, audiences are still left in awe of the immaculate
designs and productions and shows from all over the world still aspire to
perform here. Over 600,000 visitors still pass through the grand lobby, tours
are conducted almost daily, and almost 91% of seats for all shows have been filled
in the 2017-2018 season alone. In addition to this, it also helps to foster
young people under the age of 28 and encourages them to immerse themselves in
the ballet and theatre through its many partnerships and even discounted
seating. As we walked around the area, it was interesting to see how all of the
roads, just like with many historical buildings, all lead to the Opera.
Romanistic in its layout, the house was able to be seen from all around and
stood as the true staple of the area. Though I was unable to tour the inside of
the facility due to a show being performed that day, its magnificence was still
able to take my breath away from just the entrance. The arts culture in Paris
is one that has left me in awe as it seems to be the heart of the French,
something that binds them together and gets people talking no matter what the
subject. References to previous great minds such as Chopin and Molière who all
lived and performed in Paris is more than remarkable. Miami, as it undergoes
its own transition to revive the arts itself simply just does not compare to the
Parisian art culture, it is not limited to one or two areas in Paris as it does
in Miami, it completely envelops the city itself and can be found almost
anywhere. Paris has been renowned for its authentic artistic culture,
attracting many artists of all types throughout its time and this building is a
prime example as to why Paris is a pinnacle point for culture and the arts.
Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette
alongside the Opera station, what was once a north gate to the city of Paris
(under Louis XIII), the Chaussée d’ Antin La Fayette station was officially
opened. The term causeway was first used to explain this area as the roads nearby
needed to be uplifted to avoid the marshy plains below. It was originally named
after, by himself, Louis Antoine de Paradaillan de Gon Drin the first Duke of
Antin who was the son of Madame de Montespan, one of Louis XIV’s favorite mistresses.
The second part of the name is dedicated to Marquis de La Fayette, a French
hero during the American Revolutionary War and initially the French Revolution.
As of 2013, it has seen over 7 million travelers pass through the station, that
is more than the entire population of the entire state of Arizona or
Washington. This area is where the real Parisians go for shopping; despite how
iconic Champs Elysees has become, it also has been overwhelmed with tourists.
This station places you in between streets lined with stores with all
recognizable names: Gucci, Longchamp, Prada, all of the designer brands. Merging
fashion and art the Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann has achieved the perfect
crossover. This massive department store has aimed to make the most prestigious
and exclusive brands available to all with many discounted prices and mixing
older and newer lines. The ultimate capitalist venture, for over 120 years, Galeries
Lafayette has attracted many tourists and Parisians alike; in 2009 it recorded
earrings of over one billion euros.
entering this massive department store, it is easy to see why this spot is not
just a regular mall nor is it solely an artistic creation. With its massive, ornamented
glass ceiling, it almost resembles an opera house or a museum at the least; it
is a true work of art. Walking up to the building itself could not have matched
the surprise and astonishment of stepping through the larger than life doors at
the entrance. Decorated in the overwhelming rococo style typical to Parisian
life, it was easy to see why it attracted so many tourists; there were people
from all over the world, speaking different languages, and all there for different
purposes. Some were there to seriously shop, while many others, like myself,
were there to get a glimpse at all of the elite brands housed there. Despite
all of its ornate décor, the heart of this building is not in the culture nor
the art, it is capitalism. Though France is seen as a champion for universal
healthcare and its social policies, the consumer culture has invaded these
beliefs born from the revolution. Despite the equality that has continuously
been strived for throughout the years, these brands are representative of the
separators that society uses to distinguish and segregate people of different
classes. The fact that areas such as these are more popular than many museums
shows the dedication that people have to their looks and perceptions rather than
culture, art, and knowledge. These brands are not all inclusive nor do they
focus on the people, these brands are almost all about maximizing profit. Many
factories are located in less developed countries to take advantage of the
cheap labor and ever lower working wages. Even a progressive nation such as
France has fallen under the predatory clutches of capitalism, a system that
negates almost all of the country’s beliefs.
Pont Marie—Cite Internationale des Arts
many stops on this line, the Pont Marie station was opened in 1926 and was
named after a nearby bridge over the Seine that connects to the Ile Saint-Louis,
one of the natural islands in the Seine. This area is a typical yet unique
residential area due to the conditions of those who live here: artists of all
kinds with workshops. There are two distinct areas like this that can be found
in Paris, this one located in the Marais, one of the first buildings, and in
Montmarte. This area has been supported and funded by the Ministry of Culture
and Foreign Affairs and the Academy of Fine Arts. These housing projects have
not been a new concept to French history as under the reigns of Francis I and
Louis XIV, they have both brought over incredible artists, housed them, and paid
for their necessities in order for them to paint for the royal family and France
as a whole. One of the most notable names was brought over by Francis I and he,
luckily, brought over some of his most prized possessions; perhaps you’ve heard
of Leonardo da Vinci? Or maybe the Mona Lisa? This idea to create Paris as a
true creator’s habitat has remained throughout its years.
as these continue to shock me. It is truly amazing that countries as advanced
as our own, continue to support the arts in overwhelming ways. While Miami-Dade
County has made great strides towards funding the arts and artists of many
kinds, it is still not a state-wide initiative nor is it a country wide one.
This brings into perspectives the values of our country versus France; in many
ways, while France has traditionally been our greatest ally, it has also been one
of our biggest opposites. The arts in the U.S. has not been as emphasized or
cultivated, funding in our public-school systems for the arts has been
drastically decreased and is almost nonexistent. Art appreciation and art
history are classes that are required in the curriculum in France, this is
something that is not instituted in the U.S. whatsoever. Art is one of the only
things that remain from times of history and wars, it is one of the best, most
tangible ways to recreate, envision, and teach history through. While this area
was not entirely the most artsy, it did have an extremely cute outdoor bar,
along the Seine where people of all ages, mainly of the younger generation,
were lounging and engaged in a multitude of discussions. There were also many
street performers, and as we moved through the area, we stumbled upon the
Bastille monument. It was interesting to see how the area had developed around
it to match the demography—there were tons of restaurants, cafes, and bars
around this monument where the entire history of the world had changed, so to the
times have changed.
Palais Royal—Musée du Louvre
In an effort
to expand the public’s access to art and the Lourve, the platforms added for
ligne 7 were opened in July 1916. This entrance has been specifically
redesigned by Jean-Michel Othoniel, titled Kiosk
of the Night-Walkers in 2000 for the 1000 years of the Metro. This bright
glass bead structure is yet another unexpected design that starkly contrasts
the other metro stations as well as the surrounding area. The main attraction
to this area is the Lourve, an old defensive fortress that was then opened by revolutionaries
with the artworks they seized from the royal family and many lords, is the world’s
largest and most visited art museum. It first opened on August 10, 1793 and has
grown enormously since then. The Lourve has originally pieces from the
beginning of time up until the present day and is home to many of the
revolutionary pieces that not only changed the art world but also impacted the
entire society around its times.
studying the works contained in the Lourve through a book and online sources to
seeing them in person will leave one simply out of breath and in disbelief. I
found myself wondering how so many of these great works were produced in their
time realm and have lasted the true test of time. Art ties people to history,
it ties people to ancestors and those long gone. The pieces in this museum have
changed, criticized, and forced society to confront issues thereby pushing
forward progress. All of those pieces have affected my life and have helped to
guide me into the current society in which I currently live. The Lourve cannot
be conquered in one day, or two days, or even a week. This massive museum
deserves the full time it truly takes to explore it and it truly embodies the
entire French culture—from its early beginnings to its lowest points to its
February of 1930, this station and the neighboring attractions will represent
many of the most radical French ideals still in place today. This was one of
the first stations to cross under the Seine and it is named after Gaspard
Monge, the French mathematician who later invented descriptive geometry. This
area is surrounded by an almost entirely Islamic community with almost all of
its restaurants specific to a specific country or region—allegedly some of the
best lamb can be found by walking through these streets. Just a few blocks away
from the station lie the Grand Mosque of Paris, the Jardin Des Plantes, and the
Museum of Evolution. The Grand Mosque of Paris was built in 1920 by the
architect Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, however, it required a great number of Moroccan,
Algerian, and Tunisian craftsmen to add of the miraculous detailed symmetrical
work that is attributed to all typical Islamic art. It is now the 3rd
largest mosque in all of Europe and the oldest in France. Its main goals focused
on promoting the visibility, safety, and comfortability of Islam and Muslims in
France. The Jardin des Plantes was originally the Royal Garden of Medicinal
Plants in the 17th century and was perhaps the reason why surrounding
this square, the French government decided to build many scientific museums
around it, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the Museum of
Evolution. The embracement of science, knowledge, and logical reasoning has
been one to separate France from the U.S. and other countries just as France
sternly separates itself from religion. In 1920, there were regulations in
place that initially prevented the French government from contributing to the
construction of the mosque as it violated a law strictly forbade such actions
towards any religion. Despite all of its focus on its technological advances in
all fields, the U.S. is not nearly as accepting of all of these ideals as is France.
There are still many states, districts, and neighborhoods that refuse to accept
the theory of evolution nor do they go out of their way to keep religion and
the state complete separate. In many of the southern and western public schools,
Christianity is taught almost on a daily and issues such as climate change, practicing
safe sex, the human anatomy, and evolution are entirely ignored. This does
nothing but hinders students and often times prevent them from pursing further education
or setting them back very far behind other students. Academically, students in
the U.S. are already behind in areas such as art and literature, in a country
where mathematics and STEM designated jobs are praised, it is ridiculous that
such critical lessons are left up to the discretion of so many people. While I have
been raised Catholic, I am thankful that my family has not simply ignored the
sciences, but the same cannot be said for other children in the U.S. Even on a
campus as diverse and progressive as FIU, if one were to propose an entire
museum dedicated to evolution, there would certainly be those opposed to it
within the community. The U.S., and as one would say, its “puritan values,”
continue to affect the development of the nation and all of its people. These
same issues are not present in French culture and society where rather than a freedom
of religion, it is a freedom from religion in all of its aspects.
August of 1900, the Châtalet station is the center of Parisian life and is the
largest and most complex metro station in the world. This station was named
after a castle that was located on the right side of the river Seine but was
destroyed by Napoleon in 1802, the term itself was used in medieval times to describe
a small castle. Châtalet is home to many different groups of people, from the
gays to the Jews, this area is a huge melting pot yet somehow it all radiates Frenchness
and the Parisian culture. It is also home to the Centre Pompidou which not only
has the largest modern art museum in Europe, but also a vast public library, right
in the center of Paris, it has had over 180 million visitors since 1977 and
continues to attract tourists from all over. This center was the first site for
a large, free public library. Centre Pompidou is a sore thumb compared to all
of the other buildings surrounding it, but it is reflective of the art
movements it holds within. Châtalet is also home to an extremely large, lower
end shopping mall and simply adds to the lively nature of streets of bars,
cafes, restaurants, and stores with a variety of products. Despite this area
once being one of marshland, it is now constantly filled with people and is
often a great site to celebrate big victories before the traditional Champs
Elysse. On the night of the Algerian soccer win, the streets in Châtalet erupted
into a happy chaos with people running, shouting, and chanting. This is an area
that is meant to draw people together to gather and discuss issues and share in
their most joyous moments. In addition to this, it has made remarkable efforts
to attract the younger generations by just offering a multitude of places to
hang out without being charged expensive prices and free areas to relax or even
study—this lively place has something for everyone, even for those who do not
find themselves in other crowds can easily find themselves amongst these streets.
Bringing together different forms of art, literature, and academia, and attract
millions of people yearly is something that this area has been able to perfect.
The leading city of culture and art purposefully plans areas such as these,
even the great president Charles de Gaulle advocated for such a site as this in
1968. Once again, we are able to see the repeated importance of truly free and
accessible education to all in France. The library in the Pompidou is massive
and requires no charge to enter and simply sit and read or study or use the
computers. France values its citizens and rather than see providing for them as
a burden, views it as an investment into the future and progression of France.
This thought process acts in a positive reactionary force and reinforces the trust
and relationship between the government and its people. These outward support
for the betterment of the daily lives of its citizens, rather than just the
economic status of the state and top 1% is an idea that was born out of the
revolution and has luckily persisted.
The Rue d’Aubervilliers
station was renamed Stalingrad in 1946 after the Battle of Stalingrad in
Russia. This was the target city of German forces in the Soviet Union and
fighting lasted 7 months. It was one of the largest and bloodiest battle in the
history of the world, there were over 2 million casualties. Despite the Germans
revolutionary tactics in war, Russia had the winter on their side and was
eventually able to defeat the Germans and push them back. This changed the
atmosphere of the war and its trajectory forever—this marked the turn of the
war in favor of the Allies. Today, in Paris, the area seems very similar to
Miami’s own Wynwood. Upon exiting the station, it did not feel like the rest of
Paris, there were a ton of street vendors and the apartments and store fronts
were not in the best conditions nor were they preserved the same way that one
is used to seeing along the streets. However, once walking a few more blocks,
you were thrown into a more artsy, organic lifestyle that is associated with
many European cities. There was a major art installation piece entitled, “La
Foret Escargot” by the Inzouk Association, a collaborative effort of 22
artists. This snail has just begun its journey in Stalingrad and will be slowly
moving its way towards Malakoff in 2020. Its prime focus is to develop a
greater respect for the environment, with almost all of its materials being reused
or recyclable pieces. However, such a structure as this has then focused on
forcing the “urban sub dwellers” to understand and wonder about the future of
their waste and reconsider the life of an object. Then, a huge outdoor project
looms behind it, the Paris-Plages. These artificial beaches provide a multitude
of activities for people of all ages to take part in during the particularly
hot summer days; though seemingly a tourist spot at first, it was overrun with
quite ironic, yet beautiful, how the “La Foret Escargot” was installed in the
hottest summer that Paris has ever known. There have been multiple heat waves,
days of 100+ degree weather, and even instances made by government officials to
cool off in the fountains (even the famous Eiffel Tower ones) all due to
climate change. Climate change is real and it is ridiculous that there are
people in positions of power who truly ignore the research and data of scientists.
Despite having signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 to pledge to lower emissions and
pollution, while there have been significant strides, this summer is a testament
to the fact that more must be done in this battle against climate change. The
Paris Agreement is a great starting point for the directions that states should
begin to take, however, the earth does not rely on such agreements nor does it
wait for anyone. Action must be taken, and it must be taken now. While in the Jardin
des Plantes, there were multiple stickers and floor artwork dedicated to environmentalist
groups advocating for stricter measure to combat climate change. While nations
such as the U.S. and the U.K. have digressed in their promises due to leading
officials, France has not. The people of France have not allowed such an
extreme issue to be left unhandled. Art installations such as these force those
naysayers to truly reassess the situation and are even used as an education
tool for children to learn about the effects of their daily lives in order to inspire
them to reduce waste. This installation was supported and partly funded, as
well as given the space, by the French government—despite whatever issue it may
have going on, they are still one the leading progressive states and that is
evident by the way the climate issue is being handled.
the edge of the city and merged with a major train stations sits the Château-Landon
station which was opened in November 1910. Its name traces its ties back to the
times of kings and queens with it being named after a noble family, and it sits
on the old Roman road that leads up to Saint Denis. This area is solely
residential and is located on the outskirts of Paris which drastically changed
the neighborhood itself. It was extremely quiet and many of the storefronts at
the bottom were all small restaurants or places to buy groceries, many of which
were closed at the time. This is stark contrast to any areas closer to Paris or
even the Latin Quarter where there is always a steady flow of traffic and
activity roaming on the streets. This quiet, homey area really shows the way
that the residential lives differ based on where you live—there were more
smaller children and families flocking to the smaller parks located along the
canal even compared to the larger parks in Paris where there is a significant
older population. Despite its quietness, this area was nice to remind me of the
multiplexity of Paris—it is simply not always crowded areas and the ever going
activities. Areas such as these are where those who we pass by on metro rides
rushing to get to different places eventually retreat back into, these are the
quiet places they often prefer to the commotion of Paris. It was a different
change of speed and intensity that is often associated with Paris.
The Porte de la Villette
Opened in 1910
but serving as a Gallo-Roman village during the Roman empire, the roads along
Porte de la Villette link modern day Paris to the ancient roads that led to Flanders
and eventually Rome. Fashioned similarly to the area surrounding Pompidou, and
itself, it is all fashioned in a very modern design with a lot of shared,
common spaces, floating gardens, and various technological hubs. In the middle
of the Parc de la Villette lies the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, opened
in 1986; this museum focuses on all things science and technology, promoting
science and its culture. It is the largest science museum in all of Europe and
has several floors dedicated to many things such as a mini aquarium, a huge public
library, and even a planetarium. This center and square alone could be
considered its own mini city as it has almost all of the commodities needed all
within the square. Its goal is to spread scientific discovery, exploration, and
general technological knowledge amongst the public and the youth. In its
massive library, it even has free classes and activities for everyone—with workshops
focusing on areas of employment, health, and languages. Each workshop has
different levels and different opportunities for those based on age, and they
are all free to the public. It works in conjunction to the school, under the same
name, to further conduct research, display it, and run the entire museum and
all of its parts, creating a more hands on environment for all students. This
structure alone represents the emphasis that France has placed on the sciences
and education. The true birthplace for such strong ideas stem from the French
Revolution and its complete abolishment of the monarchy and traces of the
church and religion. By separating itself from the church, France and its
leaders have then been able to build upon science and revolutionize it to develop
new technologies and techniques. This scientific revolution has been able to
launch new and improved cures for diseases, maintaining high yielding crops,
and solve the issue of clean water and a sewage system for France. These were
just a few of the immediate issues science had begun to solve for the country
and as such has remained a pillar of its society for the many years after, it
is still reflected today. This museum and research centers proves to the world
that France, despite being the center for art and culture, can also take on the
role of science and discovery.
This ancient, yet clean looking stop came as a surprise as it had been site of a former Roman village along the ancient Roman road that linked Lutetia to Lyon. It has served as a place of inspiration for numerous writers and artists that have created magnificent stories based on these streets, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Laying on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, it is easy to see how the environment of this area remains lively and as a true testament to time. Tucked away in the corner is a large, gothic styled church, the Saint-Medard Church, that was ransacked in 1561 and as a result has been rebuilt immediately after with its interior being updated as far as 1647. This church had immaculate stained-glass windows that featured 3 female saints and only Saint Michel, something I found rather unusual considering that it is often the men saints or Joan of Ark who are normally celebrated in most historically relevant churches. Also, though it is still a lively area, it is not typical of the young, broke students that populate the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area, less chaotic and with more road space (remember larger for Romans), is a much more refined and expensive area, yet the park next to the church remains a favorite amongst the population’s children. However, the era of craftsmanship prevalent throughout France remains here with several butcher shops, brasseries, and cheese specialists. This area also has a massive basilica at the top of the hill that has been preserved very well from the ancient Roman times. This stop was able to mix in all very important and different time periods of French history all in one area: the Romans, the French Revolution, and the emerging political uproar and modernism.
Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and entering her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special.
She is currently completing the 2019 France Study Abroad as taught by John W. Bailly and these are her “France As Texts.”
Paris as Text
J’existe. I exist. By Jessica Horsham of FIU on the Champ de Mars on 3 July 2019.
Paris, France simply does not exist, one does not simply exist in Paris, France. Despite being the world’s third most visited city with over 17.4 million visitors each year, they never seem to truly be able to emerge themselves in its culture or connect with the people. People come to Paris to free themselves yet only get surrounded in the same guided paths as the other tourists around them. In a city rich with history and art from nearly 2000 years ago, people seem to step over it constantly. Everywhere in Paris tells its story of how it got here. One can travel from a university that was established in 1925, where some buildings are a tell-tale sign of its date and travel over a system that stretches more than 100 miles circling above and below the city to only ever land at the same three spots. Despite, the century of history in one pivotal square across from Louvre that held some of the most cathartic decisions to change the entire world or the now distinguished public green park that stretches for miles surrounding an iconic building, one cannot equate the tourist paths to nothing, as the stops along their general paths were unprecedented or found anywhere else in this world. However, many will lose themselves in this façade of Paris and simply drift though. This is not enough, it is not enough to simply exist in this city; Paris calls on you to engage with its people, the buildings, and its parks, it is all beautifully crafted to foster these interactions—bonjour does take you very far. Those who dare to be bold, adventurous, and different will only find that Paris offers plenty to those who are even willing to dip their toes in it. Shrouded in its vastness of beauty lies a city with dark secrets and a history ready to be uncovered.
Fictionally written through the hands of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.
To my evermore loyal subjects,
As we begin the trillion-dollar expenditure of the new royal home, there have been grievances expressed and some of you may be skeptical of the necessity of this palace. Allow your king as appointed by the one, true God, to ease your worries and suspicions; you are all allowed to speak with me one on one, following proper paperwork and approval, and are allowed to enter for multiple occasions. Thereby, this palace does not belong to one person nor one family, it belongs to France.
This palace is simply not a place for the nobles to indulge, Versailles will place France as a leading power in the world. This palace will attract foreign dignitaries from all over the world and I will be able to negotiate treaties on your behalf with all corners of the world to help place France in stability and prosperity. Versailles will intimidate and frighten our enemies, as it helps me to hold our nation together to remain the largest state in Europe throughout all of our time. For the next 400 years, Versailles will host over 10 million people each year and it will have attracted the most powerful people in the world, in addition to common folk who will admire France and look to it for inspiration. We must distinguish ourselves from our neighbors and Europe, it is time to truly create our own culture and identity; we must not continue to live in the shadows of Italy or England, the time for France is now and Versailles will be France.
Tucked in behind the trees that
envelope the refuge, like blankets protecting a child from the night’s monsters
and cold air, the Maison D’Izieu welcomed dozens of children escaping the
persecution and camps of the Nazis and the Vichy collaboration.
Theo Reiss, 17.
The orphanage first opened in April
1943 to provide children made orphans by the Holocaust or those whose lives
were threatened, a safe place to escape from France to safe nations such as
Switzerland or with the hope of being placed with a family who would be able to
Marcel Bulka, 14.
The orphanage had taken great care
to establish itself as legitimate and went through the proper documentation and
paperwork, prior to its opening. It was approved by the necessary government
officials from the region.
Maurice Gerenstein, 14.
This refuge had taken in children
from all over Europe who were escaping persecution, from Russia to France to
Poland to even Austria; this home was simply for all children facing
persecution or deportation.
Henri Goldberg, 14.
As testified by the children
themselves in letters written to their families, each other, or their
caretakers, this home was a place for them to grow and experience the childhood
that they rightfully deserved.
Max Teitelbaum, 13.
While the children were not
oblivious to the horrors occurring outside of their little village, for the
time that they each spent there, they allowed themselves to embrace the
feelings of happiness and safety.
Otto Vertheimer, 13.
They attended school, celebrated
Christmas, as not all children were practicing Jews, participated in their own
plays, made up their own stories, rode bicycles, and simply played outside.
Jacques Benguigui, 13.
The children were free here, they
were safe. They had fresh water and food supplied by the surrounding village,
they were protected. While Sabine Zlatin would venture to find new routes and connections
to relocate the children with guaranteed safety until the war was over, the
camps were closed, and the killing of innocents had ended.
Raoul Bentitou, 13.
Many of the children also attended
local schools in the village and everyone was aware of their presence, this was
a legal orphanage in all of its means.
Max Balsam, 13.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded
the Soviet Union, beginning the war on both fronts.
Esther Benassayag, 13.
On September 3, 1943, Italy’s
surrender to the Allied armies was announced.
Joseph Goldberg, 12.
On October 13, 1943, Italy declared
war on Germany.
Mina Aronowicz, 12.
The Germans then reclaimed this
“free” area of Italy and began to viciously hunt down all Jews throughout the
Jacqueline Luzgard, 12.
News of the raids began spreading
and many of the orphanages began to relocate and move children out as soon as
Paulette Mermelstein, 12.
Sabine Zlatin began to explore
different routes to smuggle the children away into hiding and safety— she began
her last exploratory route on April 3, 1944.
Suzanne Szulzklapper, 12.
The end of the war was near,
soldiers were tired, the resistance continued to rise exponentially, and the
Allies were closing in on the Germans.
Claude Reifmann-Levan, 11.
The Germans knew that they would
Armand Teitelbaum, 11.
On April 6, 1944, only two months
before D-Day, Klaus Barbie gave the order to arrest all of the people and
children at Izieu.
Jean Ament, 11.
A convoy of Nazi troops arrived in
the afternoon and detained all 44 children and seven of their caretakers were
arrested and sent to Montluc.
Edmond Gamiel, 11.
Only one caretaker, Lea Feldblum,
Isidore Kargeman, 11.
42 of the children were sent to
Auschwitz where they were murdered in the gas chambers.
Elie Benassayag, 11.
Arnold, Theo, and Miron were sent
to a labor camp in Estonia where they were shot to death soon after.
Jean Balsam, 11.
Sabine soon heard of what had
occurred and upon arrival discovered her worst nightmare, the entire little
village was abandoned.
Marthe Spiegel, 11.
These children were not resistance
fighters. They were not soldiers; they were not fighting in the war on either
side. Most were not even practicing Jews; they were only children.
Liliane Gerenstein, 11.
They believed that they were safe,
they should have made it out alive. Liliane wrote a moving letter to God asking
to bring back her parents, to protect them. She places their safety and their
lives above her own; this is the innocence and purity that was within each of
Jacob Benassayag, 10.
Their innocence, their rights to
live, the right to their childhood was viciously and maliciously robbed from
Charles Weltner, 10.
In heartfelt messages to one
another and to their caretakers, they express eternal gratefulness for their
current state of happiness. They acknowledge that though they may not have
much, they are content and full of life.
Gilles Sadovski, 9.
They wish one another happy
birthday, profess the sweetest wishes for one another, there is not a trace of
maliciousness in any one of them nor was it ever portrayed to any other person.
Max Leiner, 9.
They deserved to live, they
deserved to have a full life.
Georges Halperm, 9.
How can the same God I have known
all my life allow such a tragedy to occur?
Renathe Krochmal, 9.
A God who is just, fair, and
righteous— one who “rewards the good and punish the evil.” How did He allow
this to happen?
Mina Halaubrenner, 9.
How did He allow for an extra three
children that day to arrive to their ultimate slaughter?
Santa Spiegel, 9.
Despite all of the glory He has
bestowed upon us, this crime is of no contest.
Zygmund Springer, 8.
April 6, 1944, left many parents
orphaned— alone in a world without their only children.
Richard Benguigui, 8.
Those left behind were then shoved
into corners and silenced for years despite the screams of Sabine and those who
aided the orphanage.
Marcel Mermelstein, 8.
How cruel is it that the ones that
are supposed to be protected and saved above all else were the ones targeted by
Samuel Adelsheimer, 7.
The names of the children were
forgotten, only to be remembered by those whose families had survived, and by
Liane Krochmal, 7.
However, during Klaus Barbie’s
trials, in 1987, the children were an essential focus.
Emile Zuckerber, 6.
This heinous act was part of the
tragedies that finally condemned Barbie and created the statute of crimes
Jean Claude Benguigui, 6.
This proved that the actions taken
by Klaus Barbie and those soldiers under him were solely for the sake of being
Albert Bulka, 5.
This was a deliberate, vindictive
attack targeted to erase a whole group of people.
Lucienne Friedler, 5.
A five year old could not have
aided the resistance, fought in a war.
Claudine Halaubrenner, 5.
It was because of these 44 children
that Klaus Barbie was finally convicted. Many of their parents devoted their
lives to searching for him after the war. He was the one who gave the order to
arrest and deport the children, the hearts of society.
Fritz Loebmann, 15.
The Nazis were all too close to
success in erasing the humanity, the identity, and the presence of the Jewish
people. Fritz is a testament to that. His name on the plaque, commemorating the
children and adults that were stripped from the home and ultimately were
murdered, was added much later. In all of the commotion, he had not been
recorded as being present as he was not supposed to be at the home at that
time. They had only discovered his presence much later.
Moise Reifmann, 64.
Hova Reifmann, 60.
Suzanne Reifmann, 38.
Lucie Feiger, 50.
Marie Friedler, 36.
Miron Zlatin, 40.
That was the legacy that the Nazis had strived to attain: no recollection of these innocent lives. They did not succeed, as such, it is our duty and our responsibility to carry the names of those who suffered from Izieu.
Lyon as Text
B-3692, Claude Bloch by Jessica Horsham in Lyon, France
on July 10, 2019.
Upon seeing him for the first time, our hearts collectively ached for this gentle old man who was in such great shape that he was passing us on the stairs. Despite his great physical condition, this was not always the case for Bloch as we would soon come to find out. has one of the most moving stories—he is a Holocaust survivor. Claude Bloch was only fifteen when he was arrested alongside his grandfather and mother in France, within the first few minutes of being held in the Gestapo headquarters, his grandfather was killed. The Nazis main mission was to exterminate this group of people, one Bloch never really was as neither he nor his family were practicing Jews, to erase all Jews from the Earth and from history. B-3692 was their first way of doing so, by giving them this number, as Bloch said, you exit the realm of humanity; without your humanity, what’s left of you? They treated them as if they were not people and, in these camps, the only true way to resist was to survive, to keep fighting every day for your breath—even at 100 pounds, Monsieur Bloch never gave this fight up. Throughout this time, Claude Bloch also lost his mother, who up until their last interaction was always protecting him, shoving him in the right direction even if he did not know what it meant at times. Despite surviving Auschwitz, Monsieur Bloch was thrown back into society with little to no help from the French people nor the government. Thankfully, he was reunited with his grandmother in the same home he had lived in, yet it was a lot emptier than what he had remembered. Though he was one of the few lucky enough to grow up and out of this era, find love, and start a family, the repercussions of his experiences followed him all throughout his life. Despite being urged to speak his testimony of his time, Bloch was silenced and forced to continue his life as if his deportation had been a vacation or trip away. He was initially refused reentry to the school he was wrongfully torn from, there was no one to help him through the relentless and repeating nightmares, no one had wanted to hear or know about any of his experiences. Unlike many of the survivors, Bloch did not attempt to move away, instead choosing to stay in Lyon even after his beloved grandmother had passed. Bloch had no option but to stay and work, move on with his life, as if these great crimes against humanity had never entirely touched him or been carried out directly against him. He was forced to continue onward. During my time with Bloch, it was ridiculous to imagine how he was silenced and forced to battle his demons alone, his tattoo never fading just like the scars on his heart from his losses and all that he witnessed during camp. At 15 or 16, you are not thinking about whether or not you are going to be called to your execution nor should you be, however, Bloch experienced this a handful of times—each list, each name casting more anxiety than the last. Justice for Bloch had not been served until decades later and Bloch acknowledged that his nightmares followed as well. How is it that even after all he has been through and seen throughout all of his life that he is yet again worried for the state of our future, that he is not optimistic about it? A man who should not have survived in those conditions, where everything was against him, yet he overcame, is not optimistic about our future. After liberation and generations of peace, love, and family, he is truly fearful for the future, how can this be? The current state of the world politics, oppression, racism, and segregation has succeeded into mimicking that of the past as Monsieur Bloch expressed. These conditions have only fostered great tragedies to occur and if we cannot learn from the past mistakes of our parents and their parents and those in our past, we will only arrive at the same inevitable destination. To resist is not enough to abstain from, that is not the only option nor is it the right one. The state of nonactive voters and those who simply choose not to participate in politics is no longer acceptable, this is how those who stood with the Nazis were able to gain power and silence others, silence is not resistance. We must use our voices and stay vigilant and loud, otherwise, we will have once again failed Claude Bloch and the other 6 million people who died because people remained silent.
Normandy as Text
Ordinary Heroes by Jessica Horsham in the Normandy
American Cemetery on July 23, 2019.
Ollie W. Reed and Lieutenant Ollie W. Reed Jr. are the only father-son couple
to be laid to rest in this cemetery today and more importantly, Ollie Jr,
otherwise known as Bud, was first to pass. These two are a true testament to
the fact that ordinary people have the potential to live extraordinary lives,
whether their time span on this earth was short or long, they made sure to
leave their marks beyond the grave. Ollie Reed was born in Norton, Kansas on
July 18, 1896; coming from humble beginnings, his father worked multiple jobs
to keep the family stable and they lived on a peaceful ranch. Ollie and his
childhood sweetheart, Mildred, met as young children who aspired to help their
communities, country, and travel the world rather than fame and fortune. From
he was only 16, Ollie made his impression as a kind, gentle man—always aiming
to do the best for others with what he had. Naturally, Ollie excelled in
physical sports and was a star football player, however, without any future in
that career, he began exploring other opportunities. He was offered admission
to West Point Military Academy, however, he refused admittance for Mildred, his
soon to be wife. He knew that life as an army wife was extremely difficult and
he did not wish to have her enter that life. While at Kansas State Agricultural
College, the call to serve and help others continued to sing through his heart
and he joined the ROTC and quickly advanced as a lieutenant, earning his
company the best shooting percentage in only his second year—this was to
be a repeated occurrence in his life:
promotions and records. He was soon entered into the Kansas National Guard and
was deployed during the Mexican-American War, he quickly rose amongst the ranks
and returned as a lieutenant. Despite his push against it initially, Ollie
loved being a soldier and what it stood for and soon joined the First Officers’
Training Camp. Ollie was then sent around to multiple camps with his wife
Mildred and on January 15, 1919, Ollie W. Reed, Jr., or Buddy, was born in
Manchester Connecticut. After reassignment to yet another camp, Ollie, at Camp
Dix in New Jersey, was deeply disheartened by the fact that he had not been
fighting alongside the many injured soldiers he lived beside and returned home;
many of whom he knew from other camps, schools, and trainings. Within two
months, Ollie sailed to Germany as part of the army occupation following the
war, Bud and Mildred were granted permission to follow in March of 1920. During
their time living there, as Buddy grew into a toddler, he easily picked up the
German language and was able to communicate with those in their occupied house.
Buddy was incredibly smart and already began to follow in his father’s
footsteps. After the 1918 armistice, many soldiers were fired or able to return
home, Ollie remained and continued upwards. Upon returning from Germany the
family was relocated once again and soon Mildred and Ollie welcomed their
second boy into the world, Theodore Reed. Buddy and Ted were extremely close
yet, also opposites; whereas Bud was phenomenal at football, Ted enjoyed horses
and animals. Ollie then moved on to become a professor and instructor and
Drexel Institute wherein he restructured their military program and helped it
to achieve (and maintain their current scores), he was extremely stern with his
students but truly cared for each of them—something he would always carry with
him, they secretly called him “Uncle Ollie” behind his back. One thing that
Ollie was extremely adamant about was communication—he said that once this
breaks down, the attack will breakdown. Life on the road was a bit tough for
Buddy as he tended to be rather shy and soon began to struggle socially as well
as academically. At the prestigious Wentworth school, where his father taught,
he struggled with the rigorous daily routine of being a transfer as well as an
underclassmen, however, as Ollie knew as well, this was a direct path to West
Point, the goal for both of them. Just like his father, Buddy was an amazing
football player, which really helped him ease into his life at Wentworth. Upon
getting accepted to West Point, Buddy eventually failed out after his first
year, but dedicated that summer and year after to improving his math and French
grades. However, similarly to his father, Buddy was driven to help people in
the best way he knew how after watching his father do it all of his life. Upon
graduation from West Point in 1942, Buddy married Laura Sloaman and had a baby
boy Ollie III on January 28, 1944. By March 8, 1944, Bud received his deployment
papers. Buddy knew that he was not going to make it home, he told his mother
this. He did not know entirely where he was soon heading and was lucky enough
to spend a few more moments with his family and the 91st Division
before his final deployment. Ollie had longed to join the fight for freedom and
see those who he trained and fought side by side survive and under him—he
requested an overseas assignment, soon enough this was granted, and he was sent
to London on May 19, 1944. Ollie was immediately driven to his new and last
assignment as the commanding officer of the 175th Infantry Regiment
of the 29th Division. In Italy on July 5, 1944, Buddy and his
Company F, under the 363rd Infantry Regiment were overwhelmed with harsh
artillery and Lieutenant Reed ordered his men to take cover, unfortunately some
took this as an order to run. As he was diving to help his panicked men to
cover, he was shot in the neck and killed instantly. He, along with 5 others
were reported as missing in action as they lay lifeless under whatever could be
thrown over them to preserve their bodies. In France, once crossing the Channel
Colonel Reed was instructed to lead his men to the critical crossroads of Saint
Lo. As his men pushed forward, they were met with even more intense artillery
that caused them to be pushed back or gain only a few yards and even break
communication, his number one rule. Under his Captain Gerhardt, this operation
cost more lives than those that were lost at Omaha. The 29th
Infantry were outgunned and outpowered.
family embodies an entire generation wherein families were torn apart, children
died before parents, and the world was left with a missing generation. On July
30th, troops, including Reed, arrived at Saint Lo. Of this total
11,000 casualties, 3, 706 of these were from the 29th Division. However, communications were still knocked
out along the front lines and he ordered Reed to inspect the line and get back.
He was then mortally wounded by a German shell as they came under fire. Colonel
Reed died on July 30th, he was the highest ranking officer of the 29th
to die in action. America was stunned when the remaining Reeds, Mildred and
Laura, received two telegrams within the span of 45 minutes indicating both
deaths. Ollie W. Reed was 48, Ollie W. “Buddy” Reed Jr. was 25.
America reacted crazily to the deaths of the father and son who had died on the European battlefields. However, their story embodies this generation and time perfectly. Men as young as 18 years old plunged into the darkness of war, not all of them would make it out, and just like Bud, they knew this. Families knew this. It is not common for a child to die before a parent, yet this generation is defined by such painful losses. The perfect nuclear, beloved, and “American-grown” family was suddenly shattered, just like the Reeds. These families were able to reunite because of the sacrifices made by men and women such as the Reed men. It is only a shame that the way Bud and Ollie had come to reunite was right next to each other on their deathbeds. However, it is also a shame that Bud’s death engraving is inaccurate as well as the misinformation that has been found online and through articles. These men did not give up their all nor did Mildred experience their deaths daily as she gathered letters and documents to record themselves for such mistakes to occur. These men deserved better than these mistakes, these men were remarkable and should be remembered not just for their bravery or sacrifice but also for that gentle, kind Reed heart that was unique to both men. Bud’s story resembled that of a multitude of lost servicemen, left in the fields, with no records of where they were or most times who they were. In addition to this, it is remarkable how men with so little were willing to risk it all for freedom and for their country; it not longer mattered your religion or race, all that mattered were the people next to you and all those who you had never met but were your brother and sisters that you needed to defend. I found it difficult to not only write this but also to read this out loud, not because of a lack of information nor the nerves, I struggled because how does one humanize people who were real life heroes, larger than life? This was something Bud struggled with as well. Colonel Reed did not have to enter the war, he was well past his age and very respected, he could have avoided it all. But he did not, he requested it because he knew what it meant. Colonel Reed could have avoided the front lines, sent another in his place to relay the information, but he knew the importance of communication, of information, so he went out there on the front lines, and died for that, alongside his men, the same people he had been worried about all his life. That is beyond bravery and courage and all of the attributes we give to heroes. Their sacrifice and their support and defense of ordinary people of men and women like me, gives me hope. Though my sacrifice will not be as great or courageous as these two men, I too aspire to help my nation in the best way that I can—through reform, through the legal system, through justice, for equality, and for freedom. These same ideals that led countless men into war are the same ideals that motivate me to continue forward. That fervor or call to give your all to people is one that I too hear as it echoes over the decades. However, no greater sacrifice can be served in comparison to Bud and Ollie. They never stopped fighting for us, for the future.
Pere Lachaise as Text
A Child Prodigy by Jessica Horsham in Père Lachaise
Cemetery on July 26, 2019.
of all music, Euterpe, wept when Frederic Francois Chopin died on October 17,
1849, the world of music was forever changed and broken by his absence.
Surrounded by a bed of flowers lies Chopin’s grave, he carried the Romantic
period of music on his frail shoulders with dignity and grace. Though his body
lies in Paris, wherein he made most of his most famous pieces and reinvented
the entire romantic period, his heart lies in Warsaw, Poland where he was born
on March 1, 1810. His mother introduced him to music and by the age of 6, young
Chopin was training under Wojciech Zywny, soon surpassing him in technique and
creativity. At the age 7, it was clear that Chopin was a musical genius, he had
already begun composing and producing music. Chopin was the first to
specifically orient all of his pieces around his beloved piano, any
compositions that included other instruments all centered around the piano. As
the only boy of 3 girls, a lot of the pressure rested on Chopin to establish
the family name and create a legacy, one that he surely surpassed. After a
short stint in Vienna, Chopin moved to Paris, where he would make his home. In
Paris, he befriended incredible artists of all sorts—from Eugiene Delacroix,
Franz Liszt, and Vincenzo Bellini, all established French elite artists.
separated Chopin from other composers and artists at the same was his ability
to create a story in his compositions and utilize the free-flowing form and
design of music in a way no one had seen before. Chopin, an extremely
sensitive, introverted man, found his release and outlet through music and his
compositions; all of his pieces are extremely emotional and personal to his
life. Some of his most dramatic, brilliant works are inspired by his
relationship with the writer, George Sand. Originally, there was some confusion
on the gender of his lover because of the name; however, Sand was a woman that preferred
to write under a man’s name so that people would not criticize her work because
of her gender. She also would dress in men’s clothing simply because it was
more comfortable. Chopin, while small in stature had always been attracted to
people with larger than life personalities such as Sand and many of those in
his inner circles. He was extremely critical of himself and many described him
as sad, with Sand describing themselves as the “rich girl and a sickly prince”
right before their breakup.
having continuous issues with his health after contracting tuberculosis in the
1840s, he was committed to his compositions. In fact, it was during this time
that he produced some of his most famous pieces such as the Ballades and Opp,
48-67. The Ballade is a genre that refers to the style of a literary ballad or
poem using a one movement instrument, such as the piano, was one that Chopin
invented. During his life, many of his “friends” attempted to replicate his
works; Franz Liszt, one of France’s most esteemed composers once performed a
piece that Chopin had composed, yet he added a ton of additions to make it
“prettier.” Chopin was reportedly outraged – and rightfully so – being quoted
with saying that piece can only be played the way it was meant to be or not at
all. Chopin’s music and compositions will be marked in history forever, his
complexity and creativity has changed the landscape of music and it will never
be the same.
Chopin being a household name in music, it is the pressure placed upon a child
to succeed that has registered with me the most. As the only male child of a
family of 3 girls, having parents who had worked extremely hard, the child
prodigy carried the weight of establishing his family name almost entirely on
his own. Despite his older sister and mother being involved with music, it was
clear from early on that neither of them could compare to Chopin. Therefore, it
all rested on him. While my family has never outright placed this weight upon
my shoulders, my siblings and I have always been raised with that mentality. A
goal to not only do the best that we can do, but also be the best at what we
do; whether that be to achieve the best grades or to place first in
competitions, it was always the same. This weight can be especially hard for a
child to carry and is perhaps why Chopin preferred to keep to himself, choosing
to let out his true feelings through his music. Though I am more of an
extroverted person, I hold my feelings close to me and am not to discuss the
stress or any pressures I am feeling. Part of those stresses is to succeed and
do well for my family, both of my parents are extremely handworkers, like
Chopin’s, yet they do expect more from me. At times I have struggled with the
weight of this, school has not always been the easiest and though I know my
family wants the best for me, it has been a point of frustration. As I am sure
it too was for Chopin who, despite not wanting to perform live, continued to do
so at a young age because it was what his parents wanted. Chopin, seemingly
learned to overcome this struggle once he moved away and into the freedom of
Paris. The struggle to be different and to distinguish himself from those
around him, such as Mozart and other child prodigies at the time. To reinvent
something, leave an impact, do something meaningful and new that hadn’t been
done before so that he would not fade away into the shadows of the greats; to
establish oneself amongst the greats is something we all aspire to do. Due to
the technological revolution and the rapid, free flow of information, despite
having it all on our fingertips, it is harder to stand out and establish
something different in these times. These insecurities haunted Chopin
throughout his life, rather than succumb to it or spew hate as many do when
insecure about themselves, he created his outlet and fit it so that it was
specific and personal to him. Similar to Chopin, this study abroad has been
more than just a vacation or a class away from home, it has been transformative
and freeing experience, and for that I thank you Paris, as the many greats that
have found their home here have done before me.
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was born on March 28, 1738 in Saintes, located in southern France– he was an aries. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin always excelled within his studies in Reims, France; he was interested in the arts and for a brief period of time, he became literature professor at the University of Bordeaux. Despite his success, Guillotin left for Paris and soon became an established physician, one of the best in the city. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the French Revolution as a chosen representative in the Estates General. One of the more outspoken members, Guillotin advocated for an equal representation of all of the classes and more non-nobility citizens in the Estates General, one of its undeniable flaws. He even supported women’s rights to be represented amongst the Estates General, something very uncommon during this time. Dr. Guillotin was a very outspoken and intelligent man. In a culture where almost everything is predetermined based on your social status and there is not much freedom to use other skills in a professional field, a literature major and professor moved forward towards an intricate field: medicine. Even in today’s “progressive” society, this is not common in France nor is it often even imagined by those lucky enough to continue their education, yet Dr. Guillotin accomplished this feat and much more. Not only did he then become an established doctor, but he also never gave up his literature background; by using his foundations as a scholar and writer, he became an active politician fighting for human rights- something that once was the core value of the Revolution, but became twisted along the way.
Despite his infamous killing machine, the guillotine, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a capital punishment abolitionist; he was staunchly against any practices revolving around executions. He believed that all of the current killings were unnecessarily cruel and was simply sorted based on your class in society. Whenever people of the lower, working classes were sentenced to death, they would often be: hung, which could take hours if improperly executed, quartered, painfully ripped apart by horses running in different directions, or even sentenced to the breaking wheel, where one’s bones would be broken and then bludgeoned or stoned to death. Wealthier or upper classes, would be privileged with the opportunity to be beheaded, however, this too had many issues. Each family or individual would have to hire their own executioner, with some being swifter and “better” than others. Otherwise, those families on the lower tier of the upper class would often risk hiring executioners who may have dull blades or simply would not complete the job in one swing; nonetheless, it always depended upon how much money you were willing to spend, even on your death bed.
These injustices, along with his personal experience as a doctor, pushed Guillotin to advocate against the death penalty, often writing many pamphlets criticizing against it. However, as time elapsed and the gruesome executions continued to occur, Guillotin realized that he should switch his focus to solving the most immediate concern: the way in which people are being tortured to death. This concern is what led him to propose to the National Assembly a law that would make the guillotine the official instrument of capital punishment, until its abolition in 1981. He oversaw the development of the first prototype and advocated for its use within the Assembly, that led to its successful use. Many critique Dr. Guillotin for the contradictions between his actions and his morals, and label him as a hypocrite for going against one of his fundamental beliefs against capital punishment. However, I fully disagree with these critiques of his character. Rather than being a hypocrite, Dr. Guillotin was an actor of change. The only reason why he chose to oversee the development of this machine was because he recognized that at this specific point in time, despite all of his efforts, he was not going to be able to prevent death nor would he be able to prevent capital punishment. Injustices were still occurring based on social class, people were still being tortured to death so he needed to make a decision, a change. He was an intelligent person and considering the political and societal environment at the time, this was the only solution to prevent unnecessarily cruel deaths.
After its invention, the guillotine soon became the favorite object of the National Assembly and its successors soon after. During its height in the Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre, between 1793-1794, almost 2,600 people had been sentenced to execution. By 1799, it was an upwards count of over 15,000 who had been beheaded. The guillotine did not discriminate between class, as was Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s main purpose, it claimed the lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as common thieves and those who were “against the state.” Also, during Nazi Germany, Hitler was reported for using the guillotine and killed around 16,500 people by decapitation.
Despite this widely used machine, Dr. Guillotin did not want to be associated with it nor did he ever wish for his name to be used in connection with the machine because, as previously mentioned, he was a staunch capital punishment abolitionist. Moreover, he only aimed to invent this device to provide equality in death for all French citizens; he did not believe that they should be subjected to cruel and unnecessarily violent deaths. The guillotine was never intended to be such a public nor entertaining event. He wished that it would take place in a private center, however, he was horrified by the increasing fanfare and bloodlust for dire entertainment amongst his fellow citizens. It is easy to see why he and his family petitioned the French government to change the name of the machine; after they were rejected, they decided to change their family name altogether.
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was an active advocate for human rights in France and was one of the leaders in advocating for structural change. In his Petition of the Citizens Living in Paris, this pamphlet argued for the humane and egalitarian executions as well as an equal representation within the Estates-General for all citizens. Once elected as a representative within the National Assembly, he was able to pass a law that required all sentences of death to be carried out by his machine. During a follow up speech in 1789 defending his machine, he has been quoted as saying, “Now with my machine I take off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it.” Many critics soon shamed his words and ridiculed him and his speech in various periodicals, nonetheless, he stayed dedicated to getting his plan approved and passed into law.
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin struggled with the legality of the death penalty. While morally he knew that he could not stand behind or support capital punishment, within his government, he struggled to defend against it. This same fight is one that is held all over the world in the current international system. As of 2017, there are about 142 countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty and many more that have not used it within the past 10 years or allow the penalty in extraneous circumstances. Nonetheless, in the United States, the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including Florida. As a prospective criminal attorney with hopes of living and working within Florida, this same battle is a reality that I may face. Whether I will be on the prosecution or the defense is still a mystery, however, I will be faced with the same dilemma: how does one justify capital punishment? This is something that I have and will continue to struggle with as I move throughout my law career. Thankfully, in part to Dr. Guillotin, society does not have to face the torturous deaths that were rampant during these times. However, despite the newfound “equality in death,” the death penalty is still an extreme and permanent punishment. Death cases do carry a heavy toll on one’s heart because an actual life is on the line, whether or not you are on opposing sides of the bench, the fate of an entire person’s life rests in your hands. While I am against the death penalty, as I do not feel it is within mankind’s authority to end a person’s life, because the method is egalitarian and not painful, it does make the extreme decision to do so a lighter burden to many. Nevertheless, the law does not entirely reflect nor does it care about “feelings.” It also would be wrong to deny that in extreme cases, the thought of capital punishment would be so heinous; for example, it would seem almost crazy that people would be against Ted Bundy getting the death penalty. But still, should humans be the ones to decide on life and when to end it? This is still something that I struggle with and will continue to do so throughout my entire career. Nonetheless, these discussions should occur within our society and should reflect the beliefs of all of the citizens. Dr. Guillotin’s arguments have helped to propel the fight to abolish capital punishment all over the world.
Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin lived a life dedicated to trying to achieve equal rights for all people, regardless of social or economic class. Though his machine helped to define a Reign of Terror, he did not advocate for any of the senseless killings to occur. As a proponent for equality under the law as well as equal representation, he has helped to shape our society today. Though creating this machine had made it easier to execute people by justifying the lack of pain, he also did create an egalitarian way for all to be executed and put an end to a torturous death that was common to the previous eras. His writings have been used to help abolish capital punishment in France and all over the world, while it has also served to ensure that those states that continue to practice capital punishment do so in a way that does not discriminate against anyone and is as painless as possible. He truly changed the landscape and redefined what it meant to have equality in death.
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