Monday, November 16, 2015

Between Victims and Heroes: Searching for Those Things that Unite Us

by Nomad

In the aftermath of two terrorist attacks, one in Beirut and another in Paris a day later, we must take a moment for reflection, not about our differences, but about the things that unite us. 

For the last few days, the world's attention has been fixated on the coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday which left 129 dead and 352 injured. What should have been the pleasant start of a weekend, a warm autumn evening turned out to be a stage for nothing short of a blood bath and a city under siege.

A Vain Search for Answers
In every respect, it was a senseless act and yet the human mind tries in vain to make sense of it. How could it happen and why?
What kind of evil could transform a convivial scene at an outdoor cafe, with crowds of people enjoying the company of friends into a war zone massacre with bodies strewn on the streets and sidewalks?

How could this happen? To what purpose? Who actually benefited by the murder of 23-year-old Hugo Sarrade, who was enjoying a night out at a Bataclan concert? 
How did the vicious slaughter of Mathieu Hoche, Quentin Boulanger, 29, or Marie Lausch, 23, and her boyfriend, Mathias Dymarski, 22, truly further any political cause? 

These were not martyred for a great cause. These were not crusaders for their religion. And they certainly were not soldiers defending their nation. 
They were, in fact, not representatives of anything more than themselves. They were targeted simply because, like the victims on the beach attack in Tunisia in June, they were easy to kill en masse.

As far as the perpetrators, a more cowardly attack is hardly possible.   
The terrorists did not target symbols of the French state, or of French militarism. They did not even target tourist spots. They targeted, rather, the areas and the places where mainly young, anti-racist, multiethnic Parisians hang out.
And there was a blood-thirsty logic in that.
What the terrorists despised, what they tried to eliminate, were ordinary people drinking, eating, laughing, and mixing. That is what they hated - not so much the French state as the values of diversity and pluralism.
The only common link between the victims was their ordinariness. They were just average people and easy targets.

When searching for people to blame, a lot of people pointed the finger not just ISIS- which took credit for the acts- but Muslim people in general. I suppose there will always be a small minority in any country ready to exercise their prejudices whenever there is a terror attack.

Naturally, Muslims in France wait in dread of an anti-Islam backlash.
The Far Right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen wasted no time exploiting those animosities and fears.
In a series of tweets, she wrote that for the sixth time this year, France has been attacked by Islamic terrorists. 

Le Pen neglected to mention that the majority- as far as we can determine were actually French nations or at least European born.
She was more interested in shaping reality to fit her narrative, a common theme with those of the Right.
Le Pen proceeded to call on France to secure its borders from a perceived influx of Syrian refugees who may have ties to Islamic terror groups. She said that France has become vulnerable, and that it is necessary to rearm the country to fight back against the threat posed by those groups and those Muslims entering the country from war zones in the Middle East.
The tone is typically emotive. To re-arm! Close the drawbridge. Man the towers. The barbarians have arrived! 
It's awfully nonsensical when you think more carefully. "To fight back" against... refugees who might- or might not- have ties to terror groups?  

In fact, according to a UN group, women and children make up three-quarters of the refugee population in Turkey. And among those who have crossed into Europe, one in every four asylum seekers is a child. A total of 133,000 children sought asylum in the European Union between January and July 2015 with an average of 19,000 children every month, according to the latest available Eurostat data.

That's the very reason why so many refuges are trying to find a safe harbor. In this year alone, attacks by Muslims against Muslims in predominately Muslim countries  far outnumber those occurring in the West. 
The Syrian refugees are also escaping the crossfire from a civil war on one side and a brutal religious terrorist group on the other. 
Many Syrian refugees arrive in neighboring countries and Europe having gone months without access to basic services and traumatized by the violence they have experienced or witnessed.
Blaming all Muslims and refugees is all too easy given the climate of fear and paranoia. This kind of knee-jerk reaction is ultimately self-defeating strategy. That's simply playing into the hands of the terrorists who relish the idea of creating fault-lines in a culturally diverse society.

At any rate, statements from the American Far Right were less subtle but much more exploitative and obnoxious.

Smirks, Sneers and Shameful Remarks
In the US, right-wing politicians were quick to blame and even accuse President Obama of being to blame for the Paris attacks. As if American presidents were expected to defend the entire world.
Strangely they never held Republican president Bush to the same standards after the bombings in London or the train bombings in Madrid, Spain. 

The France 24 TV news channel called the remarks by American politicians "shameless." That's inaccurate since shame requires an underlying sense of conscience and empathy. Our experience with people like Anne Coulter and most of the people at Fox News suggest they have no such human traits.

Who can possibly forget the night of the Benghazi attacks in Libya when candidate Mitt Romney actually smirked as he held Obama responsible for the loss of 4 Americans?

Ironically, back in 2003, in the weeks before Bush embarked on his disastrous crusade to bring down Saddam and liberate the Iraqi people, it was the French UN ambassador that warned the US that such a step would be exceedingly dangerous, that the war might be easy but the consequences were hard to predict. Dominique de Villepin said,
"We must assess the impact that disputed military action would have on this plan. Would not such intervention today be liable to exacerbate the divisions between societies, cultures and peoples, divisions that nurture terrorism?
The reaction? Freedom Fries and the unsuccessful attempt by Fox News to punish the French's refusal to participate with a boycott of French products.

Last Friday and Saturday this stupidity was on full display once again. People who presumably should have known better seem to compete with one another to post the most inappropriate remarks online. 

There was Newt Gingrich who insanely claimed that if only the victims had been armed, they could have defended themselves. The always-noxious conservative blogger, political commentator Michelle Malkin waited a full three hours before hysterically blaming Obama, calling him "Nobel Prize-winning Workplace Violence Whitewasher-in-Chief." 
The hate is palpable and eerie similar to the kind of tweets we seem coming from ISIS.

Nobody on the Right seemed capable of just offering condolences, respectful remembering the victims or even just keeping their mouths closed. There only approach to every problem, it seems, is to match demented hate with more demented hate. 

More than enough people were ready to hop on that shameless social media bandwagon to prove to the world once again, that the Right wing has literally lost its mind, its common humanity as well as its dignity.

Right Moves in the Wrong Place and Wrong Time
Let's stop and rewind to the day before Friday. There was a less-publicized terror attack on that Thursday. 

On the day before the Paris attacks, twin suicide bombings killed at least 43 people in the southern suburbs of Beirut in Lebanon. More than 180 others were also wounded in the attack which ISIS also claimed responsibility. 
The event took place in one of Beirut’s busiest shopping districts and during the evening rush hour. Clearly the time and place where chosen to inflict the maximum number of dead and injured. 

On Thursday evening one Beirut resident, Adel Tormous, was out with his young daughter. As it turned out, Adel was one of those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was, according to the report, sitting at a nearby coffee stand at the moment the first suicide bomber denotated his explosive device.
When he noticed a second suicide bomber moving among the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the first explosion, Adel made a split-second decision. 

As the bomber was about detonate his suicide vest, at the last second, Adel tackled the terrorist. According to one Lebanese blogger, his action saved many lives, and in doing so, he forfeited his own life.   
There are many many families, hundreds of families probably, who owe their completeness to his sacrifice."
Like the victims of Paris, he had every reason to live. He made the decision nonetheless and left his daughter an orphan.
Blogger and physician, Elie Fares writes that it would be wrong to call Tormous (or any of the victims) martyrs.
"Calling them martyrs is a sort of Lebanese way to not only dehumanize them, it's to sort of make ourselves feel better that, yeah, it's okay, they died, but they're martyrs which means they're in heaven and they're in a better place. But the fact of the matter is it's just sort of a label to make ourselves feel better, and maybe their families feel better because the label of 'victim' means there's a sort of accountability to the process."
He adds:
"They're dead because of something they had absolutely no role in ... They died because of some demented, twisted politics."
After Friday, there are many who share that idea. Demented, twisted politics hiding under a cover of religion extremism. 
That's all it is. 

And yet, some on the Right seem determined to fulfill the terrorists' mission of destroying tolerance and diversity, pitting one side against another, and the people against their leaders.  

We are united in victimhood. The bond we share as victims is stronger than the things that seperates us. The grief for the innocent victims unites the families of victims in Beirut, of the badly-shaken people of Paris and the nearly 100 victims in Ankara who slaughtered at a rally for peace. 
The tears taste just as bitter no matter who sheds them. 

Terrorists' denial of our common humanity is the thing that ties us together and yet, that's where the answers to how to defeat this evil can be found.