Doing things differently since 1984
By now, everyone is aware of the events that happened in Paris on Friday that left 129 dead, hundreds injured, and millions in a transformed emotional state. I won’t recount the details.
Now, I am very aware that other tragedies also struck other cities in recent days. I don’t want to downplay their importance or sadness, but unlike those other places, I’ve been to Paris. Three times. It was the first actual-foreign city I visited (sorry, Canada). I spent 7 years learning its language. I’ve met and spoken with real Parisians. Its familiarity makes it more personal for me, and thus its tragedies have struck me more personally.
I had to duck low to stay out of the initial Reactionstorm, with its predictable cacophony of sincere sympathy, insincere bandwagonry, panic, boos, cheers, and — the really horrible one — opinion-spouting. One can only read so many “See, this is why we must [the speaker’s opinion, as it existed well before any Parisian terrorism]” before needing to retreat to a dark cave for a few days.
I won’t bore you too much with my emotional reactions, which have been pretty much what many others have already expressed much more poetically than I can. Instead, I want to share some of my thoughts, because I like dealing with incomprehensible things by attempting to comprehend them:
1. Anytime, anywhere. This was the message of Friday’s bloodbath. A random concert. A random sports match. A random bar. A few random restaurants. “Terrorism” in its most most basic form. Yet, I found something oddly un-terrifying in the randomness. It’s easy to worry about going to major events with lots of people, or maybe even getting on an airplane, but a night out? What am I going to do, never leave my house? You can’t “up the security” for something that can happen anytime, anywhere. You have to just continue about your life. Maybe even enjoy it a bit more, for as many moments as you’re able to take from it.
2. This is what the refugees are running from. I was nearly blinded by the truth of this widely shared tweet: “To people blaming refugees for attacks in Paris tonight. Do you not realise these are the people the refugees are trying to run away from..?” Even without the commentary on the current refugee crisis in Europe, it’s a jarring realization. Just imagining living a life where every day is like November 13, in my neighborhood and all the neighborhoods around me, makes me go real quiet inside. There are still millions living like this.
3. ISIS desperately wants us all to go to war with them. For anyone struggling with the “why” of it all, I highly recommend this masterpiece (allot a couple of hours for it, but it will be worth it). If you don’t believe the writer, or his firsthand accounts, then think back to the beheading videos, with their distinct “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” tone. ISIS’s acts of terrorism against their neighbors are blind bigotry; ISIS’s acts of terrorism agains the West, however, are taunts. They really, really, really want us to come over so they can shoot us. And fulfill some big prophecies. And usher in the Apocalypse. We’re basically a campaign promise. Does this mean we shouldn’t go over there? Heck if I know. But at least it gives some explanation as to why they’re trying to wind us up with random mass killings.
4. France is making us all proud. France got attacked because they are an open society, where many diverse kinds of people are able to live in peace. A few of these people ended up being bent on senseless violence. However, as much as I worried about how the French would react to the Charlie Hebdo shootings, they didn’t cease their open society then, and, so far, it doesn’t look like they will cease it now. Maybe I haven’t read the right articles, but I have not seen any evidence from France of mass harassment of Muslims or mosques, or cries to turn Syria to glass, or a border lockdown beyond temporary security concerns. If war is what ISIS wants, I’m not feeling like they’ll get it out of France.
5. We’re all ‘The West’. Do you know what ISIS thinks about Republicans, or Democrats, or white people, or black people, or poor people, or rich people, or Russia, or the US? Nothing. They think we’re all one single category: The West. Shooting any number of us, in any number of our cities, is the same to them. Does that mean that we are all actually the same? Obviously not. But it’s worth considering that ISIS, for all its many evils, has given the rest of us something to have in common with one another. It’d be nice if we could feel that way all on our own.
And so, if you’ve skimmed through the rest of my rambling to see what my main point is, it’s this — I can pray for Paris if I’d like; light something up in the French flag’s bleu, blanc, et rouge; but if I’m going to do something really significant, that matters to Parisians and everyone else, it’s going to be peace. Terror can’t take root in a heart of peace.