Loin des yeux, près du coeur.

I plugged it in to Google, which promptly spit out, “out of sight, near the heart.” Not the most elegant translation, but I got the point as I walked through the crowd that gathered in Washington, DC to march in solidarity with those attending the National Unity Rally in Paris.

The French Embassy billed the event as a “silent march,” saying that “[t]his march is open to all who would like to join together to honor the memory of the victims of the attacks and engage in solidarity in the fight for freedom of speech and freedom of opinion.” There was very little pomp; the organizers seemed to be more concerned about making a statement than they were about making sure dignitaries had a chance to speak. Before the event began, the crowd mingled happily, taking pictures and talking about maintaining a free press; French flags and copies of Charlie Hebdo were passed around as the crowd spilled off the sidewalks and onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Once the group started to move, the mood changed. Those who marched from the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial were oddly silent; I’ve never attended a rally that felt so solemn and reflective.

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“Je suis Charlie” was our rallying cry, but some in the crowd took hold of the opportunity to draw attention to other journalists who have been killed or imprisoned for embracing freedom of speech:

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No one spoke until the march reached the memorial, when someone started to sing “La Marseillaise.” The quiet dignity of it would break your heart.

Then, it was over. A crowd immediately surrounded French Ambassador Gérard Araud, but he didn’t make the most of the cameras. He spoke to everyone he could, and seemed a little overwhelmed by the international outpouring of support and love for his country.

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Today, I had the privilege of joining thousands in taking a stand for freedom of speech and against the violence that ripped through Paris last week. I can’t help but wonder if this will be the time that the idea of “free expression” sticks in the minds of those who have the power to maintain it, or destroy it in favor of the dangerous dogma of political correctness.

Vive la France. Loin des yeux, près du coeur.