The heartbreaking news on Friday night managed to be both shocking and numbingly familiar at the same time: A massive terrorist attack in the streets and against public venues in Paris, carried out by seven or eight vile thugs from the terrorist group ISIS, armed with automatic weapons and twisted ideas about God and humankind. Their tactics vary from New York to Madrid to London and elsewhere, and the casualty numbers rise or fall, but this Paris attack, with 129 dead and many more wounded, was especially barbaric. The 21st Century rituals of terror, however, from the candlelight vigils to our leaders' immediate but vague promises of revenge, always remain the same, painfullly so.
In the initial fog of savagery, it's hard to know what to say, other than to express our deep, deep sorrow for all those who lost loved ones, and our limitless love for, and solidarity with, the people of Paris. In the darkness of such a moment, we have to unleash the light of the billions who love humanity and who abhor the use of violence, the forces that affirm life.
The scenes that were disrupted on Friday by these thugs -- watching a rock concert, entering a big soccer game, or just dining out in an ethnic restaurant -- could have been happening here in Philadelphia or Bangkok or Peoria. It's why we say Nous Sommes Tous Les Parisiens -- "today we are all Parisians," bonded in the universal blood of hope and fear.
As noted above, it's hard to know what else to say. But that didn't stop many from spouting off before the ambulances could even cart away the dead -- using the Paris attacks to justify their own narrow political beliefs or specific cause. Frank Bruni had an excellent analysis in the New York Times this morning:
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.
I can only add to that my concern that knee-jerk, politically expedient reactions to the attack will be used to justify harsh measures restricting the movement of the migrants fleeing the ongoing -- and all too routine -- bloodshed in Syria. The knee-jerk proposals to clamp down on these refugees risks a humanitarian crisis, a new tragedy on top of all the other tragedies. Let us remember that the vast majority of refugees are fleeing the barbarism of ISIS (or from the also diabolical Assad regime).
Indeed. I'm working now on a piece for the Daily News about a 21-year-old Syrian who escaped to Philadelphia and is now seeking asylum from the United States; the son of a doctor and an academic from an ethnically Christian family, he made it across the border probably just days, if not hours, before he was rounded up by Assad's goons. This is the kind of person who we're now going to take our revenge against?...I hope not. What's more, as this excellent analysis from Buzzfeed (!) notes, harsh European (and American) measures against Syrian refugees is EXACTLY what ISIS hopes to accomplish with sinister acts like the Paris attack. Are we going to do the terrorists' bidding again? Will we ever learn?