If Paris’ Tragedy Has You Feeling Scared, Consider These Thoughts
“I’m scared,” my little sister said after reading some of the media coverage on the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris this past Friday, November 13. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay, to hold her, to say she was safe, but how could I know? How could any of us know?
“Yeah, something else bad will probably happen,” my dad responded passively, the ever-comforting father. “But you can’t really live your life in fear.”
It’s difficult not to, at this point. “The goal of terrorists is to inspire terror, because that’s all they’re capable of. And the most important thing our societies can do in response is to refuse to give in to fear.” Paul Krugman, New York Times op-ed contributor wrote.
It’s helpful to consider this, I think, as already I see how intense fear has paralyzed the minds and hearts of Parisian citizens, in addition to those far outside of European borders. While our generation has now bore witness to a couple of large-scale acts of terrorism (9/11 and the Boston bombing come to mind immediately), there’s some element of this violence, probably based in how easy it seemed for a group of terrorists to shoot up civilians on the streets of a major metropolitan city on your average Friday evening, that feels especially hard to process. An utter disregard for human life is beyond upsetting—it’s sickening. And it’s also a very specific characteristic of ISIS’ strategic philosophy, setting them apart from another familiar organization.
“The style of the attack was in line with the Islamic State’s tactic of indiscriminate killings and goes against Al Qaeda’s guidelines,” The New York Times reported. “In a 2013 directive, the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, stated that Qaeda operatives should avoid attacks that could inadvertently cause the death of Muslim civilians and noncombatant women or children.”
So what’s to come of these senseless killings? The fear, I realize, is one of the largest byproducts, and arguably most damaging of all. Facebook users choose the colors of the Parisian flag to tint their profile pictures, others post renderings of the Eiffel tower encircled in peace signs to their Instagram, and many more argue the validity of either of these responses. At the end of the day, we make whatever decision we can live with, contribute in which ever way we can, and hope that that will be enough. “Today, I went to the gym, and I was wearing my helmet,” said Aykut Kasaroglu, a shop worker in the immigrant-rich Montreuil district. “The policeman stopped me and told me to take it off so they could see me. Everyone is suspicious.”
If I walked the streets of Paris would I be suspicious upon seeing Aykut Kasaroglu with his face covered? I would love to say no, but it’s especially important in this time, I think, to recognize the dormant and casual feelings of racism and stereotype we’ve developed towards one another. All I can do is feel and confront that pain, as those notions are drastically and predictably going to affect all of us.
France’s attitude towards its Muslim citizens have historically been fraught, and the Charlie Hebdo attacks of last January didn’t help (and I find the Charlie Hebdo cover in response to the attacks on Paris to be ignorant and annoying, as they usually are towards sensitive matters of religion and oppression).
Many people whose opinion I trust (mainly again, New York Times writers) say that the chances of terrorism overtaking our country, and Western civilization are pretty much nonexistent—from Paul Krugman: “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.
I’ll tell my little sister that later tonight. Additionally,
“There are no more areas in which [ISIS’ regime] can extend by claiming to be a defender of Sunni Arab populations. To the north, there are Kurds; to the east, Iraqi Shiites; to the west, Alawites, now protected by the Russians. And all are resisting it. To the south, neither the Lebanese, who worry about the influx of Syrian refugees, nor the Jordanians, who are still reeling from the horrid execution of one of their pilots, nor the Palestinians have succumbed to any fascination for ISIS.” It makes sense that they’d be reaching out globally, and as to why they’d use tactics that inspire an international feeling of fear. That’s more powerful than seizing any square footage of land.
And lastly, to keep the situation in perspective, consider another growing issue: as Americans, we rarely live in fear, enjoying the comforts of a 1st world country whose main concerns include Kardashian dating dramas and the merits of the term “bae”. In other places in the world—the Middle East is only one, but an extremely important region like this—it’s normal to grow up terrified, to understand that death by bomb or gun is possible at any moment.
One of the eight terrorists who facilitated the attacks on Paris that took place this Friday, November 13, had recently returned from Syria, the country that’s been largely overtaken by the Islamic State. Prior to this, the United States was planning an initiative that would house and make legal 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. Now, there’s question as to whether this would be viable without inviting potential terrorists inside of American borders. And, “According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, “more than 12.2 million innocent people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly half the refugees are children.”
Somewhere else, a little sister has nobody to tell her that she’ll be okay. Be grateful for what you have tonight. Be grateful you can read English. Be grateful for a government that keeps you safe enough to Netflix and chill. And out of respect for those without this privilege, and because it just won’t help anything, be sure not to live your life in fear.