We’ve had a week to think about, tremble, fragment ourselves over what happened in Paris.
We can worry ourselves sick over what we imagine the future will be, if we let ourselves go that route. We mustn’t. But we must realize that ISIS too is no doubt learning as it goes, and has probably discovered that the best way to terrify and terrorize other peoples is not with gigantic explosions (like the World Trade Center’s), but instead at restaurants, barber shops, supermarkets, gas stations, schools, resorts, hospitals, random street corners and shops.
ISIS probably does not want to take over the United States.
What it does want to do is have our country recognize ISIS for the power that it is, and to change our perceptions means eventually changing our way of life.
It would, in the long run, be enough for the ISIS powers-that-be to know that the United States has become merely an outpost of Muslim thinking.
Terrorism, ours or theirs, imported or domestic, is designed to make people change their habits. Of course, it wants to scare the living daylights out of people. It wants people to be standing still in the middle of the road, uncertain in which direction to run. It wants to confuse people about what is allowable and what not, what they can do safely and what not, where their safety and loyalties lie.
How best to combat these aims?
One way certainly is not to bomb the hell out of the Middle East. That creates more and angrier terrorists there.
Another thing to avoid (pacem Republicans) is to turn our backs on the refugees that ISIS has created in the Middle East. That creates more and angrier home-grown terrorists here, demonstrating as it does so clearly that the US cares not a whit for other peoples’ problems or safety.
Creating a “database” of Muslims to be shared with US law enforcement as well as international police leads to a Muslim realization they may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. If the country to which these people have given their allegiances distrusts them to such a degree, why not give that country real reasons to worry? On their way out, if they choose to leave, a lot of damage can be done.
We’ve long wondered why the US and its allies believe that bombing is an answer to the metastatic spread of Islam. And finally the Islamists have understood they don’t have to work very hard really to frighten us.
What can we anticipate from ISIS? In this country death by a thousand cuts. They don’t need to organize, plan and carry out massive destruction. All they need to do is strike irregularly at the least likely opponents. Farmers, for example. Knitting circles. Bookclubs. Seven-elevens. Yes, subways and busses, too, but more importantly Mom-and-Pop stores. Restaurants. Shoe-shine stands. Railroad stations. Sports teams but not necessarily huge sports venues. Town halls and town meetings.
Grounds keepers. Teachers of seminars. Artists. Silicon would-be’s. Little bridges over little rivers. Country and western bars. MacDonalds’. Dry-cleaners. Utility substations. Reservoirs. Roads to airports.
The point of all this is to re-orient citizens to now being afraid to move one way or another. To run errands. To drive their kids to school. To go to the movies. To freeze us in our tracks like deer on a dusky highway as night falls.
Also, and this is important, ISIS is not racist in its blood lust.
In England in the 80’s, when the IRA was bombing London restaurants and stock brokerages, the man on the street absorbed these shocks and kept walking. We know because we were there.
And in France, less homogenous but determined just the same, people will do the same.
But the US is still basically virgin to the lack of reason terrorism uses. We always want to know why. Often we can discover hints and half-baked theories behind violence. But on a scale such as ISIS’, such reasonable questioning will be beside the point. Because there isn’t any rational point to what ISIS does. ISIS just is. And we have to make the best of it.
We hope we’re wrong on every one of the above points. On the value of small gestures versus humongous demonstrations. But if we’re not and we are, instead, entering a “wait and see” period as ISIS surveys the scene and plans further mayhem, as ISIS understand how few soldiers of fortune are needed to bring a city to its knees, we have to maintain our humanity at the same time we shore up our sense of determination and toughness.
There are things we’re going to have to see to get used to, things in the past we would never even have imagined getting used to As a nation of exceptional individuals, we’re going to have to stop being so incredibly selfish and learn how to operate so that the most good can come to the most people.
And, despite all the politicking and horrific and divisive rhetoric, we’re going to have to learn, to believe, in our Constitution and in the goodness of the history of the United States of America.
God Bless Us All.