Yourself & Terror

Yourself & Terror

018794-01-02“Aren’t you afraid of going to Africa, now?” a friend asked me during the intermission of a play this weekend.

“No more afraid than you must be staying home,” I replied, angry as usual with the question.

Terrorism has been a part of the troubled world for all of history and “No, Bernie; No, Hillary; no, Donald” we can’t get rid of it. We can contain it, but we are doomed to a worse fate if we think we can end it.

That’s what’s brought us to the current tragedy: a misguided notion that invading Iraq would make the world safer. Misguided heaped upon misguided, for our mistake in Vietnam and Russia’s in Afghanistan seemed to have been ignored.

We as Americans are masterful at fooling ourselves, because we have inflated notions of our might and because we can hide so well in our insular communities.

But I reminded that questioner Saturday of the Cold War, and she remembered then how her own family had built an air raid shelter. She began to remember how it was stocked and maintained.

Was that not done out of fear? That’s terrorism’s success: making you afraid: the presumption that some awful inhumanity which you believe or have actually seen happening somewhere else, might strike you.

We’ve got to get Americans to register facts. It takes memory, a bit of studied research and a huge helping of honesty. Terrorism from Timothy McVay to the Mailbox Bomber to 9/11 to the Twin Towers to a hundred or thousand other incidents of terror have all struck at home. Right here. Not Paris. Not Nairobi. Here.

And so they have for all of our history in virtually every part of the world. The information age allows more of us to know about more of these incidents more quickly than in the past; that’s all that’s different.

Play the odds, folks, and your fears should abate. It doesn’t lessen the horror of a beheading or bomb attack or the phenomenal confusion and angst trying to understand a suicide bomber, but it ought to make you less afraid.

And once you’ve got your senses back, then and only then consider how we should deal with the mess. Take a lesson from Sunday morning’s editorial in Nairobi’s newspaper, the Daily Nation:

“As a country that has known only too well the pain that merciless and misguided fanatics can inflict, Kenya obviously stands united with France in this hour of deepest anguish.

“The world must certainly stand together to battle the scourge of terrorism that has taken an even more menacing face in recent years.

“It would not be wise to rush into ever greater confrontation and war guided by justifiable anger.

“Instead, the voices of the peacemakers must come to the table, too.”