It takes a few days after a tragedy to comprehend how you feel about it. Initially, all you can feel is shock. Sometimes it is just in passing, you recover after a few minutes. Other times it is a real slow burn, it takes time for the shock to even hit you. The attacks on Paris on Friday the 13th hit me hard right away, and never really let up. Partially because we have a lot of French friends, partially because we have been to Paris a few times, and recognize the streets when they show them on the news, and partially because, as tragic as this was, it very narrowly avoided becoming far, far worse.
Shooting up a concert and a restaurant, multiple bombs, 100+ people dead. Those bombs were meant to be inside a Football match. With follow up bombs going off in the panicking crowd. Good security kept that from happening. I can’t imagine how many more could have been killed if those bombs went off in the stadium. We all got lucky.
Terrorists also hit Beirut and Baghdad this week. A Russian airliner went down the week before.
It’s been a pretty shitty November.
There really hasn’t been as much coverage of the other incidents, perhaps because American Media treats Russia and the middle east as “others” and not worth the coverage, Maybe it was just out of the news cycle. But Paris had an impact. People die every day. We, as a culture, aren’t very sensitive to it anymore. When you consider that the number of people killed in the Paris attack is about the same as 3 days of regular Gun Violence deaths in the US, you realize that we tune out death on a daily basis. It takes something very special to get through. And this was special.
For most of the world, Paris is the city where life is “Amélie” and “Ratatouille” all day long, and “Moulin Rouge” at night. It’s a romantic ideal with a zip code. Everything is romance and mimes and snails in your Happy Meal. We can look across the rest of the world and be disillusioned by the grey pressure of life, but everyone looks to Paris with Joy. That’s why I think an attack on Paris breaks through everyone’s cynicism. Terrorism isn’t about killing people, it’s about spreading fear, and hitting a place of such Joy (even if it is just the fantasy and perception we know) cranks that fear to 11.
I heard folks here in the US talk with sudden fear, as if an attack from ISIS is the next truly scary thing in their life. Let’s be clear, I live in America. I don’t fear terrorists from ISIS. I fear the toddler that found mommy’s loaded gun in the glove box of her F150. I fear the lack of any driving instruction as I cross the street. I fear the quality of our food (whether it’s ecoli or Type II Diabetes coming for me first). Where I live, Terrorists are the bogeyman, not a real threat.
And listening to the interviews of the Parisians after this attack, I think they know this lesson. I don’t hear fear and screaming for retribution, I hear sorrow and mourning for their loss, but the desire to stand up tall again. As they left the stadium, immediately after the attack, people were singing “La Marseillaise” with pride in their voice. They cheered each other as they walked out. We can all heal, but it has to be our choice.
Intelligence and vigilance saved lives, but refusing to be afraid is what stops the terror.