Saturday, March 26, 2016

Light a Candle for Us

I'm losing count of how many times this has happened, but events always seem to follow a set pattern following an Islamic terrorist attack.
First there's the sounds and images of explosions/gunfire/bomb detonations that result in carnage, death, destruction, and panic mixed with heroism, all viewed through veils of smoke and shadows of running figures. Immediately after we see 24/7 media coverage, often fraught with misinformation or even rumor. Next comes the obligatory outrage expressed by world leaders, complete with platitudes about "solidarity" and "thoughts and prayers," all of which is meaningless empty words. The current American president will be sure to throw in a warning about not judging Islam by the acts of a few. (Interesting how, after a mass shooting in the USA, he never warns about not judging all gun owners by the acts of a few.)
After the heads of state have dutifully weighed in we begin to see the increased security, with armed military and law enforcement officers patrolling in full fighting gear, often with search dogs. The police presence juxtaposes with the calm and meditative candlelight vigils, with flowers, teddy bears, and heart-rending signs and letters piling up in close proximity to the site of the latest atrocity. This is the longest portion of the standard reaction, often lingering for days as news anchors capture poignant closing segments for their television network that are certain to bump up the ratings.

Newspaper stories continue to appear regarding an "ongoing investigation" as the days wear on. We may even hear about additional suspects being apprehended or new twists to the evil plot. But the buzz is now fading. The news articles grow shorter and less frequent until they disappear. People go back to watching "Dancing with the Stars" and talking about the newest iPhone.

What can we do, after all? Nobody wants another Iraq War, we say to each other over drinks at happy hour. No, of course not. But what we sometimes forget is that we may not have a choice in the matter. In fact, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we don't have a choice. We have an enemy that means business. Until we mean the same back at them, we are all in grave peril.

Finally, about ten days to two weeks after the terrorist attack, we have returned fully to "normal," listening to presidential candidates hurl insults at each other, fretting over gas prices, looking forward to weekend sports. As attention ebbs away from the latest international scene of death and devastation, the Islamic terrorists press quietly ahead with their plans for the next attack on Western civilization.

As we continue our rituals of complacent reaction, there is no doubt that one day, the candlelight vigils will be for us or our loved ones. It has been so already, in both Paris and Brussels.