Friday, 17 September 2021

We cannot ignore terrorism but can render it impotent

HERE we go again with yet another terrorist attack, this time in Paris.

Like the one in Westminster, we may not have been present but still feel its emotional impact.

There is horror at the lives snuffed out, the injuries sustained, the families devastated.

There is fright that it could easily have been us caught up in the mayhem.

There is fear that next time it happens, it might be us being taken away in ambulances or put in a bodybag.

There is anger, primarily at the perpetrators for such senseless destruction but also directed at officialdom for not foreseeing it and protecting us. Even if we know rationally that is an impossible expectation, we still feel it.

There is dismay that our values are being undermined and our lifestyle is being disrupted. Can we continue as before?

Once upon a time, there was also disbelief.

When 9/11 happened and people saw film footage of the second plane crashing into the other tower, many could not believe it was real and thought they were watching a disaster movie or spoof news programme.

Now we have lost that innocence. Every atrocity since 2001 is all too credible.

There is also a curious disconnect in our relationship with the victims. We see people jumping out of skyscrapers or being shot in French restaurants or lying in blood in the streets of Brussels but we are not there.

As they approach death, we are in our living rooms watching television, perhaps holding a cup of tea or munching a biscuit. That in itself feels indecent. We share their moment of death, but know nothing else about them. We are absent witnesses and become anonymous mourners.

We feel pity and distress despite not even knowing their names.

Perhaps we are also resentful that we have been forced to be party to their demise when a few seconds ago we didn’t even know they existed.

The way to overcome our feelings of dismay is to remind ourselves that we are not the beleaguered minority but the vast majority.

A few may choose to kill but thousands choose to comfort, help medically and donate money.

We need to remind ourselves that our values are still intact. Society will still be based on law and justice. Inter-faith dialogue will still carry on, social and cultural events will still flourish.

Doing what is noble, speaking the truth, loving our neighbour as our self — they will all remain.

We also have to take practical steps. The best response to attempts to destabilise society is by making it stronger.

If we have never got to properly know someone in our street or at work who is of a different faith or colour, now is the time to bridge that gap and invite them round for tea or out for a drink. 

The ripple of thousands of small acts can have a massive effect in changing perceptions and forging bonds.

We cannot ignore terrorism but we can render it impotent.

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