In addition to Gene Wolfe's death, another tragedy yesterday was the destruction of the cathedral of Notre Dame. While it's not been a priority to "bucket list" travel items, much less have a "bucket list," it's a place that I will no longer get a chance to properly see. It's loss is a blow to beauty and the symbols of our civilization.
How did it happen? We don't know. That said, the official story, that it was an accident due to construction, stinks to high heaven.
Look, I fully understand the desire of truly good and peaceful men who know all too personally and well the cost of war, such as Peter Grant, to condemn the certitude of "extremists" who are fomenting "yet more anti-Muslim hatred among their followers" by flat out saying it was arson and muslims are to blame - and to be fair, he is not saying it wasn't arson.
But, to also be fair, while no slam-dunk evidence that could be introduced in court to condemn someone at a trial has come up, neither is there "no evidence."
(As an aside, if you're looking for a good western, a good coming of age science fiction story with action and intrigue, or a good "mercenary fleet" story set in the same universe, it's worth checking out Peter's books.)
Here's the thing. Is it loosely possible that construction materiel and fuel and electrical gear were somehow carelessly left in a position to not only start a fire but consume the building?
Is it likely?
I don't have that much familiarity with building construction sites, as opposed to a lot of time in shipyards, but I have enough to have seen the safety practices related to hot work, fuels, and so on. Perhaps they weren't consistently followed? For all the safety regulations and so on of the EU, the european attitude towards law is often... lax. Countering that, though, is that this isn't simply another building people were working on. Who knows?
Also, the building has history. While it may not have been heavily damaged in WW1 or 2, it has stood for hundreds of years, been struck by lightning repeatedly, survived ransacking, and was lit for most of its lifetime by candles. As a result, while it is not impossible that a fire in the construction gear or something newly installed could have gotten to something structural and flammable, and thus spread, and it only takes one screw up like this to get it catastrophically wrong, it's unlikely.
Given the past behavior of the French government towards its own citizens - the yellow vests - and handling of acts of Islamic-rooted violence from a PR perspective, I tend to take any proclamation from them with a grain of salt. This despite being well aware of the differences of opinion between various witnesses, mostly second hand, and the official government report on Bataclan and the claims of torture of the victims.
So far we have a government that can officially proclaim the sky blue regarding these issues and I'd double check myself to make sure, and a raging fire that is highly unlikely to start or spread by mere accident.
In an iconic catholic sacred site. The week before Easter.
Less than a month ago Newsweek published an article on the uptick of arson, desecration, and vandalism against Catholic churches in France.
France has seen a spate of attacks against Catholic churches since the start of the year, vandalism that has included arson and desecration.
Vandals have smashed statues, knocked down tabernacles, scattered or destroyed the Eucharist and torn down crosses, sparking fears of a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment in the country.
Last Sunday, the historic Church of St. Sulpice in Paris was set on fire just after midday mass on Sunday, Le Parisien reported, although no one was injured. Police are still investigating the attack, which firefighters have confidently attributed to arson.
Black Pigeon notes the history of destroying and supplanting the religious sites by conquering peoples, one not entirely limited to Islam. He also notes some of the reactions by various demographic groups are less than saddened.
Can we state with certainty that it was arson, and the muslims did it?
Is there more than ample reason with the timing, recent attacks on churches, and muslim attitudes in France and willingness to kill and destroy to put the french in their place, to consider that this as a very likely, even arguably most likely scenario?
And here's the thing - even if it wasn't arson, the response of those taking joy in the destruction shows that they don't belong. It doesn't matter if they feel so opposed to another faith, or if they care so little for a work of craft and beauty and the loss the fire represents - they are not of civilization.