More thoughts on Paris and the state of the world

I’m not sure if this is the post I had in mind when I mentioned it last night, but we’ll see how it goes…(sorry, Sander, still no TLDR for you)

I’ve been struck by how many people on FB are reacting to Paris, as if this is the first time they’ve been exposed to terrorism. There’s a level of panic and fear that I haven’t seen since September 11th…yet it’s almost as if everybody has forgotten September 11th itself in the way they’re reacting. The lamentations for the future, the desire to bomb everybody in the Middle East, fear that hordes of muslims are about to descend on us (false claims of them washing ashore in New Orleans notwithstanding). The thing is, Paris is a continuation of attacks that have been happening since before September 11th itself. This really is a generational war, and one that’s unlike anything we’ve ever had to deal with. And we’ve been dealing with it to some degree for decades now. Surprised? You just haven’t been paying attention. In all the angst over Eric Snowden and government surveillance, everybody kind of forgot just WHY the government spies on people. To try to identify potential terrorists and root them out. (And here, I KNOW there are specific people just stomping their feet and gnashing their teeth to argue with me on that point, but for the purposes of my rant, please don’t, because I’m saving you the trouble of debating me by saying I disagree with you, and just leave it at that.)

But what I realized is that this may very well be the first major attack on a western city during the social media age: September 11th was obviously years before the advent of social media, and the Madrid subway bombings and the London bus bombings also happened before social media took off. Mumbai—the template for the Paris attacks—was in 2008; but since it wasn’t a western city, not a lot of people noticed in America. So maybe that’s why the reaction now is so extreme. (It’s the nature of social media that I immediately feel the need to issue disclaimers that I’m not insensitive to what happened, nor do I think people shouldn’t be upset and hurt over it. So…chill. I’m just trying to give a sense of perspective.) I’ve seen some indignant posts condemning people for ignoring attacks in Beirut and Africa and only reacting when it’s a western city…but that’s just human nature. A lot of Americans have travelled to Europe and Paris in particular, and for many Americans, Europe is part of our heritage, so there’s more of a direct connection. It’s like when you hear about crime in a bad neighborhood, it feels removed, but when something happens on your street you freak out. It’s nothing to point fingers over.

My point being, don’t let yourself live in fear. Sadly, this is nothing new. Now, I’m not suggesting even remotely that what happened wasn’t a big deal, or to bury your heads in the sand. I am saying that this is part of our world, and it’s been part of our world for a long time. Paris itself was the target of the first mass terrorist attack on innocent civilians…in 1894. Yes, read that year again: 1894. There was an anarchist movement in the late 19th/early 20th centuries who’s motives and tactics were not unlike the terrorists of today, and in 1894 a French anarchist set off a bomb at a cafe in a railway station in Paris that killed one person and injured 20. That same anarchist movement later set off a bomb on Wall Street—yes, THAT Wall Street—in 1920 that killed 38 people and injured 143. You didn’t know this? Look it up. Innocent people have long been targeted by assholes trying to impose their bullshit views on the world.

I mention this not to make you feel even worse about humanity, but to try instill a sense of faith that we can endure, because we’ve been enduring. Throughout all of the violence in our world, we’ve persevered and we have prospered. And if you’re scared to go holiday shopping or see a concert, just remember that you are far more likely to die in a CAR ACCIDENT than to be a victim of a terrorist attack. Seriously. That’s a factual statement. I mean, if you’re afraid you or a loved one are going to be the random victim of a terrorist attack, then you should be absolutely PETRIFIED every time you get behind the wheel of a car. But you don’t get scared when you’re driving in your car, do you? I mean, you SHOULD be wearing your seatbelt, and you SHOULD be using your turn signals, and you SHOULD be looking both ways at intersections, and you most definitely SHOULD NOT be texting while driving. But chances are, even if you’re not adhering to any of those things, you are never scared at the idea of driving your car. So don’t be scared about living your lives. Live your lives to the fullest, and take solace in the fact that, no matter what happens, you did your best. And have faith. I don’t necessarily mean religious faith, but if that’s your thing then by all means. Myself, I’m a humanist, and I have faith in humankind’s ability to overcome most challenges it faces. Bad things happen, but so do good things. Peace.

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