If we turn our society into a police state, with metal detectors at every door, body searches in every public place and the elimination of civil liberties, we fulfill the terrorists’ dream. In so doing, we complete the repulsive cycle of evil that began with CIA-funded, anti-Soviet Islamofascists in their mountain hideaways in Afghanistan in the 70s and came to a head last night with the attacks on the citizens of Paris. This may be a New York music blog, and blogs don’t have souls, but if this blog had a soul, it would reside in Paris and not here. As New Yorkers and citizens of the world, our hearts belong with the people of Paris right now.
This time the terrorists hit us where it hurt the most. We’ll never know for sure, but all indications are that they deliberately targeted the fans of an American rock band, an excellent one at that, who managed to sell out a majestic old 1500-capacity theatre, no small achievement for a foreign group in a European city that was already reeling from the effects of the ongoing global economic depression before the gunmen hit. It is troubling to the extreme that murderous religious zealots would single out the Eagles of Death Metal and their bon vivant fan base to be slaughtered indiscriminately.
As unfortunate as this is to say, the Paris attacks shouldn’t have come as any surprise. A society that demonizes another, attacks and kills their members endlessly, taunts them and treats them as subhuman, cannot expect their victims or those victims’ survivors not to retaliate. The way to stop terrorism is to eliminate the desperate cycle of exile and destitution that creates it. If people are invested in their society, if they have hope for building a life, raising a family and pursuing their dreams, they will work toward those goals. In the absence of hope for the future, despair and then desperation sets in. Around the world, impoverishment and crime go hand in hand: if you have nothing to lose, consequences become irrelevant. You’d die regardless: why not take some of the people you perceive as the enemy on your way out?
Extreme Islamofascism plays the exact same role in the Middle East and in the Arabic-speaking diaspora as Donald Trump plays here. Displaced, disheartened Muslims fall for ISIS’ anti-western rhetoric just as some of the most impoverished and educationally deprived Americans fall for Trump’s call to exile Mexicans. There are lots of stupid, ignorant, frustrated people who would welcome the chance to take out their anger on any enemy, real or imagined. The psychology of how Americans become cannon fodder is identical to how disenfranchised kids of Middle Eastern and North African descent become ISIS suicide bombers.
Ultimately, what do extremists on both the Christian or Islamic side want? They want an imaginary world where everything is black and white, where everyone who doesn’t share their worldview is the Other and therefore a target to be destroyed. We Americans stand for freedom – theoretically at least. If we sacrifice our freedom for all citizens on the altar of revenge against enemies, be they real, perceived or simply invented by the corporate elite as a way to drum up tax dollars for weapons corporations, we create a world where terror flourishes.
In destroying freedom, we create precisely what the terrorists want. We cede them the high ground on all fronts. Their terror fixates us and paralyzes us to the point where, paradoxically, we actually embrace their vision of a society based on barbarity and intolerance. François Hollande’s embrace of the suggestion to suspend civil liberties indefinitely – his words – destroys the very attributes that have made France such a magnet for humankind’s greatest passions and ambitions throughout the past thousand years. If we allow the warmongers and fearmongers among us to scare us, whether in France, the US or elsewhere in the west, to the point where we abandon the ideals that have made our societies a model for others around the world (imperfect as these models obviously are), we no longer deserve those ideals or the freedoms they engender. At that point, we should all just give up and move to North Korea. It’s a lot cheaper there.
At this particular moment in New York history, this is as good a time to stay close to the ground as any. If only for the sake of convenience, if you’re going out to see live music, it might make a lot more sense to stick to smaller venues for the next couple of weeks. That’s not to imply that you’d be limiting your chances of falling victim to terrorist violence at a concert. Virtually all of the well-publicized arrests of terrorist plotters in the United States since 9/11 came as a result of undercover agents seeking out the dumbest people at the mosque, then offering them absurdly large amounts of money – taxpayer money, in case anyone’s wondering where that comes from – to do evil things. Staying small-scale just means you’re less likely to have to deal with draconian, airport-style security at the door…or being denied admission because, say, you brought your laptop with you instead of leaving it at the office. Draconian measures, after all, bring out the little Hitler in a lot of people. And all the most interesting stuff is happening in the small clubs anyway.
The same is true in all major cities, Paris included. Let’s hope the injured all make a full recovery, as pain-free as possible, from their physical and emotional wounds. Let’s reach out to our friends in France and the French community around the world: they need us more than they ever have. Let’s take the bull by the horns and demand a global response to the endless civil war, in Syria and elsewhere, where terrorists and Islamofascists breed like mosquitoes in the fetid backyard of a foreclosed property. Let’s hope for the Eagles of Death Metal, and the rest of the witnesses to Friday’s carnage, to find the strength to overcome the horror they just witnessed. And for the record, obviously, yes, let’s get any of the bastards responsible for these murders who might still be alive and lock them up forever. Let’s just not lock ourselves up in the process. We didn’t kill anybody.