We all weep for Paris. We all weep for the victims. We can’t avoid the continuous news of the Paris terror attacks. Just like what happened in America on September 11, 2001, we become paralyzed by the news and feel helpless in the face of the horror.
Terror attacks have again frightened and shocked the world. That is what the attackers want. Of course, the ultimate goal is to accomplish a political agenda involving power, control, religious intolerance and ideology, revenge and violence. What is achieved? It’s baffling actually and always has been. What is it about the Western world that so bothers the radicals who want to inflict damage to innocent people? I’m asking because I don’t understand it really and I don’t know if anyone really does.
Sometimes it has been the opposite. The Eastern world has experienced its’ fair share of attacks as well. But then, historically we have all attacked each other everywhere since humans have walked the earth. It defies explanation and yet, somehow we can understand it when we think about human nature and the propensity to violence and to harm others for a cause or a misunderstanding or something else. And we seem to want to resolve our differences with violence rather than peaceful solutions.
Two days ago I wrote my blog post about the Paris attacks. I wrote from own point of view of course from the vantage point of guns and gun violence. And then I read this New York Times editorial written by Frank Bruni about the immediate politicization of the attacks. Bruni is right. Immediately blame is laid at the feet of others and the event is used to further a cause. I’m guilty. I admit it.
Bruni says this, from the article:
Or must we instantly bootstrap obliquely related agendas and utterly unconnected grievances to the carnage in Paris, responding to it with an unsavory opportunism instead of a respectful grief? (…)
That’s how it works in this era of Internet preening, out-of-control partisanship and press-a-button punditry, when anything and everything becomes prompt for a plaint, a rant, a riff.
It all happens in the click of a mouse, its metabolism too furious to allow for decorum or real perspective.
I woke Saturday morning to Paris-pegged commentary about not just gun control and free speech on American campuses but also climate change—yes, climate change—and of course immigration, albeit to the United States, not France.
The editorial ends with these words:
On Saturday morning I read that Paris was going to be good for Republicans. I read that Paris was going to be good for Democrats.
I felt sick. For a few hours, even a few days, I’d like to focus on the pain of Parisians and how that magnificent city reclaims any sense of order, any semblance of safety. I’d like not to wonder if Hillary Clinton’s odds of election just ticked upward or downward or if Donald Trump’s chest-thumping bluster suddenly became more seductive.
I’d like not to be told, fewer than 18 hours after the shots rang out, how they demonstrate that Americans must crack down on illegal immigration to our own country. I read that and was galled, and not because of my feelings about immigration, but because of my feelings about the automatic, indiscriminate politicization of tragedy.
It’s such a disrespectful impulse.
And it’s such an ugly one.
It’s ugly. There are real people who are affected by this terrible tragedy. There are real faces to the carnage. Lives were taken violently and quickly leaving behind the devastation to the families and friends.
One response we don’t want, though, is the response suggested by the far right politicians, candidates and gun extremists. And that is that arming the people of the world will stop terror attacks. An article from the Washington Post highlights why that is a terrible idea:
There is also little evidence that more guns—especially in the possession of regular citizens—would do much to change the outcome when gun-bearing terrorists, bombs strapped to their chests, barrel through concert halls, sporting events, restaurants, and other public spaces.
In the United States, where the National Rifle Association has capitalized on an uptick in mass shootings to argue for putting guns in the hands of as many people as possible, most evidence suggests just the opposite: armed citizenseither don’t try to stop shooters, or fail when they do. Guns have also been shown to lead to more violence. And they’re rarely used in self-defense. (…) In other words, it’s not clear that more people with guns would have done anything other than get themselves killed, too. Especially given the military-grade firearms, like the Kalashnikov automatic rifles that have been flooding the black market in France, and were reportedly used by the terrorists in Friday’s attack.
Can we just finally get this straight? Armed citizens will not stop or prevent terror attacks and/or mass shootings. The evidence points in the opposite direction. But yet, there are foolish people spreading this nonsense around for their own agenda. Of course, arming more people will mean increased gun sales and increased influence of the corporate gun lobby all over the world.
But really, where is common sense?
I write about common sense where it concerns gun violence and gun violence prevention. I write from the perspective of someone whose sister’s life was taken violently and suddenly by bullets. I know how that phone call feels. Life will never be the same for me and for too many.
Life will not be the same in Paris or France or Europe either. But it won’t be permanently ruined. Life will resume, maybe somewhat differently. But we will move on. The U.S. saw many changes to intelligence, travel, security, and yes, even giving up some of our freedoms after 9/11. But we were not destroyed.
Living in the world of terror attacks and every day violence is apparently the new normal. What will our response be?
The bottom line is that we all need to come together to solve the problems before us instead of shouting past each other with our political agendas. Why can’t that happen? I believe it can but the hyper partisanship so on display in our own country of late makes it almost impossible. We are in the “silly season” of a Presidential election. Everything is fodder for both sides to attack the other.
This not the world we deserve or the world we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.
Let’s get to work to solve the serious problems in our own country and the problems of the world around us. We can’t separate them. With instant communication we are all connected to each other. One mother’s grief over the loss of her American daughter in the Paris attacks is also ours. It could be our child next or our sister, brother, father, mother, child. We can’t separate ourselves from the violence.
It’s easier to go about our daily business because thinking about the terror and violence is too awful to contemplate. We might have to think harder or get involved or cry or react in some way. It’s easier not to.
Some people want to pray. Praying is a nice idea but it won’t change anything. Praying for reasonable solutions that will address the violence and the carnage is what we need. Praying for a reasonable response from our leaders and our candidates may help. Making sure talking heads, politicians and candidates engage their minds before speaking would also help.
I don’t know about you but I remember after the 9/11 that it was considered unpatriotic to criticize President Bush or his policies in response to the terror attacks that hit our own country. We rallied around our President- Democrats and Republicans alike. Several years later we learned the truth about some of those policies which did deserve the bipartisan criticism they received. In today’s hyper partisan world the blame is going everywhere and everyone has an opinion- many of them attacking President Obama openly. What happened to getting behind the President and showing our patriotism?
We need to have considerate and reasonable responses to terror attacks. What they are we are still deciding and it will take a while to get it right. Maybe we won’t get it right. But, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman suggests, panic and impulsive responses will just not help:
Finally, terrorism is just one of many dangers in the world, and shouldn’t be allowed to divert our attention from other issues. Sorry, conservatives: when President Obama describes climate change as the greatest threat we face, he’s exactly right. Terrorism can’t and won’t destroy our civilization, but global warming could and might.
So what can we say about how to respond to terrorism? Before the atrocities in Paris, the West’s general response involved a mix of policing, precaution, and military action. All involved difficult tradeoffs: surveillance versus privacy, protection versus freedom of movement, denying terrorists safe havens versus the costs and dangers of waging war abroad. And it was always obvious that sometimes a terrorist attack would slip through.
Paris may have changed that calculus a bit, especially when it comes to Europe’s handling of refugees, an agonizing issue that has now gotten even more fraught. And there will have to be a post-mortem on why such an elaborate plot wasn’t spotted. But do you remember all the pronouncements that 9/11 would change everything? Well, it didn’t — and neither will this atrocity.