Trying to write about something like this is difficult, because words just cannot capture the scale or scope of emotion: horror, despair, fear; these are felt, not read; experienced, not explained. When you turn on the news and see over a hundred people have been senselessly killed, helplessness descends, then anger, and finally hatred.

Hatred for who?

The murderers? Their religion? The world?

What we must remember, in this time of bitter sorrow, is that these individuals don’t represent their race or religion; they don’t speak on behalf of anyone except themselves. These twisted, sickening acts will no doubt incite calls for swift retaliation, a mandate for further bombing and drone strikes across the Middle East; which will fuel this vicious circle of mutual rage. The endless cycle of violence has to stop.

By showing solidarity with Paris, we are celebrating what makes the city such a wonderful place; its freedom to live, laugh and love. These targets were not random. Bars, gigs, restaurants; they all represent the antithesis of ISIS’ fundamentalist medieval ideology.

The perpetrators struck at what they thought was the heart of the city, but what they failed to realise – what they cannot comprehend – is that values such as these will not be shot down or deterred by brutal violence. Love and compassion are ethereal, intangible but ever present, the constant opposition to barbarity and loathing.

Each supporting message, tweet and share demonstrates that the international community stands in union against oppression and terror; like the terrorists themselves, our compassion recognises no borders. For every appalling attack like this, there are a million undocumented moments of kindness and generosity.

But we must not fall into the trap that beckons. The only way these terrorists succeed is if the international community responds with further violence. Fighting fire with fire will leave the world in ashes. We must take a deep breath, step back, and ask ourselves: “Why did these murderers feel the need to kill innocent people on the streets of Paris?”

Within the answer lies truth many of us refuse to confront: because the very same thing is happening on the streets of Syria, Iraq, and Libya; the only difference is the violence there is daily. Politicians can shout all they want about drones having “precise” targeting, or “minimal” collateral damage; the truth is, they are as indiscriminate as last night’s gunfire.

I find it maddening how our government can puzzle over the root of radicalization whilst dropping bombs on schools, or question the motives of terrorists whilst reducing whole villages to dust. This heinous double standard reminds me of the war in George Orwell’s 1984: no one can even remember who fired the first blast, or why, but the fighting continues on principle.

Perpetual warfare is the perfect environment for totalitarianism to flourish, and we must be brave and stand up to both the terrorists and the politicians who think that the only possible retaliation is with more murder.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

My thoughts are with Paris, and this piece is dedicated to anyone who has lost a loved one to violence or warfare.

 

Glenn Houlihan

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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