Random Thoughts on the Paris Terrorist Attack

There was a major terrorist attack in Paris on Friday.  I have some thoughts…

  • Part of the reason attacks like this have such an impact is that our education system has failed to overcome our innate human nature.  I saw this summarized in a great graphic that points out how there are over 6 million Muslims in France alone (and over a billion worldwide) so even if 1% of French Muslims were radical jihadists, there would be 60,000 people planning these attacks.  There weren’t – there was probably something like 60.  Maybe 600. So something like .001 percent of French Muslims might be radical enough to do something like this.  Yet there are people who are frankly, stupid enough to think that every Muslim in France is (or could be) a terrorist.
  • On that note, a lot of friends have proudly announced that they’re pruning their social media friend lists to eliminate all of the racists.  But because a) I’m such a big believer in freedom of expression and b) I think it’s important not to make my world view *more* narrow, especially in light of events like this, I continue to have conservatives and small town rednecks and fundamentalist Christians and all sorts of others who regularly post unsavory things on my feed.  I know I’m very unlikely to ever change their mind or open their eyes but it is valuable to have insight into how people who don’t share my world view think too.
  • For example, someone I spoke to at a recent family reunion explained that one of the big reasons he voted Conservative was because of Stephen Harper’s approach to ISIS and how we needed to do something about a barbaric group that are burning people alive and beheading people and so on.  I honestly understand that point of view but made only a couple counter points – that the West essentially created ISIS through our earlier interference in the Middle East and there is also arguably no way to “win” against a modern movement that calls itself the Islamic State but isn’t technically an actual state (and in fact, increased military action might be exactly what they want.)
  • It’s another innate human trait to try to connect to events of this magnitude.  (That’s why so many people identify with France – which is a founding country of Canada and where so many of us have traveled – more than other places where terror attacks happen – Beirut or wherever – even though of course, we are all humans and on some level, should have the same reaction to all tragedy.)
  • (Er, my own “connection” to this event is that, even though it was 20 years ago, I stayed in a hostel that was about a ten minute walk from the club where the shootings happened.)
  • Someone I know has made repeated reference to the concept of Useful Idiots, mainly in reference to the right wing politicians and members of the media who actually reinforce the goals of the jihadists with their elevated rhetoric about war and fear and so on.
  • Another female friend posted the following about her year in Paris:

    Every day I took the train into Gare Saint-Lazare and then the metro to Boulevard Raspail to go to school, and every day I walked 2+ hours, my choice, throughout the beautiful city filled with people from everywhere to get back to the train station. I had been instructed by not sit in the train cars with all “Les algeriens” – they were dangerous. But in all those days, moving back and forth across that incredible city, on the metro and trains and in the streets, I had only two terrible experiences and here’s who instigated them: first time, a middle-aged white Parisian man, business suit, so finely dressed. The other: two young white Parisian teenage boys. I ended up okay, safe, running both times, but shaken, scared and angry. But in my time there, those three were the only who caused me harm. Eventually, I sat more often in the cars with “Les algeriens” — I realized those cars were filled with women, children, men–with families.

  • A lot of people were sharing the video of the person who arrived at the sight of the shootings with a grand piano and proceeded to play John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  What I don’t think a lot of people posting this realise is that this song is actually an atheist anthem with its very first line being “Imagine there’s no Heaven” and then later, “Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too.”
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