Sowing the Seeds of Fear

The title is borrowed from Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times in relation to the Paris attacks of November 13th, 2015. In it, the dear Professor offers a straight up assessment of the situation:

So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.
The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire.

It's easy to look upon the images on the news, and sit, in real-time, on Twitter and Facebook as the events unfurl in front of us.  We end up aghast.  It is easy to let that initial response be our de facto position on this tragedy.  But it is not a sustainable position.

Or, we can tut-tut those who fail to feel equally bad about the tragedies that occur in other nations of the world, including those not often covered by our for-profit, grab-all-headlines-at-any-cost news networks. This approach is also not helpful in any manner other than to allow us to feel more worldly and more informed than others. It does nothing to address the responses others felt as they watched the violence erupt in a city that is culturally significant to many people who don't call France home.

What happened is first and foremost a tragedy, and sadness and disgust are understandable responses.  But we do get to choose how to move on from it.  "Fear" as a response, as Krugman reminds us, is exactly what the perpetrators want. This is evil, through and through.

However, just as evil, is the leveraging of these events for political gain, and to use the pain and sadness of others to justify a position that is at odds with our own. Fear allows this leveraging just as much as seeing the world through some fundamentalist lens.

So what is the proper response to these and other similar events? From my own perspective, I mourn the losses, and understand what is being attacked. Look at the places attacked - a football game, a full restaurant, a rock concert - and ask the following:

"Should I not go to sporting events, concerts, or a restaurant, in order to be perfectly safe?"

All of these places are culturally significant to a great many of us. Do we really want to alter our enjoyment of these places because some fundamentalist with a chip on their shoulder thinks we should feel less safe?

Now let's expand that question a bit - Do we really want to allow these people to alter our behaviors just because they reminded us that life is fragile?  This insight their act provided isn't new to anyone.

From where I am sitting, the only response to these atrocities is to be sad, be brave, and be a citizen of the world. At its core, we are all entitled to what the entirety of life has to offer, regardless of what an idiot with a gun and a dogma happen to believe.