Like many people across the world I spent Saturday and Sunday reacting emotionally to the terrorist attacks in Paris. My feelings ran the gamut. I was shocked, sad, angry, afraid, confused. I felt a sudden kinship with my fellow human beings in Paris whose world had so suddenly been shattered on what should have been an ordinary launch to the weekend. I quickly realized that a friend with whom I had attended high school was in the midst of that terrible night. She had been posting photos of her travels during the day and I had enjoyed seeing the images of the Louvre. What should have been a memorable trip suddenly became a nightmare for her. She was caught up in the maelstrom of chaos that descended on the city. Nobody really knew what might happen next and she was quite naturally shaken even as she sat in what she hoped would be the safety of her hotel room. Luckily for her things turned out well but I suspect that she will never again feel quite as secure as she once did. Perhaps there is now a lingering bit of paranoia in all of our minds. That is the true definition of terror and its purpose.
I spent Saturday and Sunday grasping for words of comfort and wisdom that I might convey in my blog. I didn’t want to spout platitudes or trite phrases and yet nothing that came to mind seemed equal to the task of writing about the tragedy in Paris other than a short line spoken by Lee Marvin in one of those tough guy movies when he witnessed a scene of mayhem, “Son of a bitch!”
I know that those words are a crude way of reacting to a situation that is quite serious and yet they express my current feelings so well. A host of emotions is encapsulated in that apt phrase. It harks back to my stunned disbelief on September 11, 2001, when both of the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell into a heap of rubble. Both then as now it was inconceivable to me that such evil exists in our world, and yet it obviously does. Fourteen years later it feels as though we have done little to bring the world back to a continuous state of peace. We’ve tried two different presidents with vastly different methodologies and still there are forces at work against us and all of western civilization. We want answers and normalcy but those things appear to elude us. We simply cannot understand what might have spawned a hate so strong that it produces people with so little respect for life. Just as another generation was unable to fathom how a seemingly refined country might devolve into a hellish state like Germany once did, so too do we feel quite baffled by the wanton violence that struck the citizens of Paris.
There is an entire generation of young people who have witnessed terrorism and war for most of their lives. They have only a vague remembrance of 9/11. They have never known a world of total peace and universal prosperity. Chaos has sadly become the new normal for them. Here in the United States those of us who are their elders have hovered over them like helicopters, perhaps unconsciously imprinting our own fears on them. Together we have all learned how to briefly grieve and then move on because we have grown to believe that to do otherwise would be fruitless. We want to stop the violence but don’t know how.
A group calling itself ISIS has metastasized in the Middle East, most notably in Iraq and Syria. They are not a geopolitical group nor one with whom we might find diplomatic consensus. Instead they are a fanatical religious sect. They live by a medieval code of conduct that they insist is the purest form of Islam. They have interpreted the Koran in its most literal sense, claiming that they are engaged in a caliphate designed to help them claim their very souls. They are not fighting for political power but for the purpose of following what they believe is the true path of Islam. Their quarrel is not just with infidels but even with those Muslims whom they see as perverting the word and the laws of Muhammad, the prophet. They fight for reasons that those of us in the west find difficult to understand. They are fighting for Allah. They view their cause as noble while we watch their actions with dismay. They have called upon all Muslims to join them in shunning the modern iterations of Islam so that they might find the true way of life as it was originally meant to be. Those of us in the Western world can never truly befriend them because we do not share their beliefs. To them we are inferior and only worthy of paying them a tax and subjugating ourselves as their slaves. When we fight back we only seem to make their cause more important. We create martyrs to the cause. Perhaps as the President of France has indicated in his most recent moment of unrestrained feeling and anger, we must eventually eliminate them just as they wish to do with us. I suspect that few of us want to have to resort to what seems like barbarism but sometimes it is the only thing that works when confronted with the bullies of the world. There comes a time when enough is enough and we have to push back. I don’t know it we are there yet but I think that such a confrontation is eventually inevitable.
ISIS has sworn to destroy Rome and hang us from our own crucifixes. They have proven that they are not just a jayvee team, nor have we managed to contain them. They use the Internet and social media to spread their beliefs and to recruit from all over the world. For whatever reason they have inspired many young people to join their ranks. They have a determination and a fanatical devotion to their cause that we have failed to reproduce in the west. Instead we continue to argue with one another and rally around our individual causes. We have yet to realize the full extent of what is happening. We are confused and just want to be left alone.
These are natural feelings. We are not quick to confront. We want to quietly enjoy our lives as best we can. Even when we see events unfold like those in Paris this past weekend we quietly give thanks that the terror is so far away. We tell ourselves that we are safe and secure while secretly wondering if it is so. We think of our children and grandchildren and want them to only experience the serenity of routine and joyful experiences. We quickly go back to planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We hope that if only we avert our attention we will be okay and the boogie men will go away. Sadly we know deep down inside that we can only pray that somehow the world will settle down and soothe our helplessness. We can’t let the bastards get us down. We promise to keep calm and carry on.
There is much that we can do. We need to truly educate ourselves regarding world events and the politicians who would like to lead us in the coming years. We need to set aside our preconceived notions and do research with the intent of finding the truth. One of my daughter’s high school friends posted an excellent article about ISIS just this weekend, “What ISIS Really Wants”. It was a highly rational and informative piece that has given me a much better perspective on what the real problem is and what we may have to do to eliminate it.
We must all keep our faith in mankind. The other side of the Paris story is the tremendous humanitarian response that unfolded in the midst of the evil. History has shown us time and again that there is more good in this world than bad. I truly believe that we have what it takes to overcome the present dangers. Our future is not all that uncertain. We know that we cannot accept man’s inhumanity to man without fighting for what is right and just. We join in unity with our brothers and sisters from France and all across the globe wherever people are engaged in a struggle against evil. We must not and will not simply look the other way. The fate of the world depends on all good men and women to pay attention and make the sacrifices needed to make our world whole again.