Friday, December 11, 2015

How We Fight Back

U2 and Eagles of Death Metal, Paris, December 7, 2015.  Photo from the Facebook page of Eagles of Death Metal, sharing presumed authorized and/or fair use claimed, full citation in sources.

Greetings All:

"These are our brothers, our fellow troubadours," he said. "They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago, and we would like to offer them ours tonight."

Bono, Paris, December 7, 2015

It has been less than a month since the cowardly and horrific terrorist attacks in Paris.  As the BBC reports (full cite below), on November 13, 2015, 130 innocent people lost their lives and another 100 were injured.  It was carnage carried out by those who chose victims who could not fight back.

The world gasped at the horror.  

One place of particular atrocity was the Bataclan Concert Hall.  Here, a group of California musicians, The Eagles of Death Metal, were playing a concert when the killing began.  In what should have been a evening of revelry degenerated into a night of horror, at the hands of cowards who had no chance to fight back.  

Fast-forward to this week.  At another concert hall, again in "The City of Lights," musicians gathered.  Except this time it was arguable the greatest rock band of our time, U2.  Here, on this stage, these literal "rock stars" shared their stage with the musicians who had suffered, as Bono so eloquently stated, a robbery of their stage.  

This was, without question, a class act.  I have links below to the show and if you want to feel yourself smile, watch some of the video clips.  

We live in challenging, complex, heart-breaking and yes, fearful times.  In the middle of a primary election, there are those who gleefully stoke the fires of fear and rage and bigotry while others howl their approval.  It is as if the black and white news reels of 80 years ago have been replaced with YouTube clips of campaign rallies today.

Meanwhile, around the world and frighteningly, here at home, young, angry people hear the siren song of the call to jihad.  I am reading the book, Objective Troy by Scott Shane.  This book discusses the facts surrounding the drone strike against the American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and the complexities of this chapter on the "War On Terror," or "The Long War."  al-Awlaki went from being the face of moderate Islam after 9/11 to a vocal and persuasive presence for terrorism.  Along the way, he became one of the few American citizens to be killed without due process.  (For the record, I have no issues with his death via drone and sans due process.  He was a terrorist and his actions justified eliminating him.  Please see pp. 230-231 of the book for more detailed analysis.)

By the way, if you're curious, al-Awlaki was killed in September 2011, over four years ago.  As we have all become painfully aware, those answering the call of jihad has not diminished.  If anything, it is worse today.

I can understand the fear, the anger about the terrorist attacks that have occurred around the globe and here at home.  One of the more particularly concerning aspects of this new chapter in the terror fight is the number of young Muslims willing to join ISIS and other groups.  The Guardian had a great story from this past June entitled, "Want to understand the appeal of Isis?  Think like a young Muslim outsider."  I've got a link to the story below and it gives a new insight on a familiar story:  Young, disaffected people find a cause to believe in and a place to belong.  It is almost as if ISIS is a first cousin to American street gangs in their basis for recruitment.

Academic arguments and historical references aside, there is still the matter at hand of combating and defeating this latest strain of the virus of Islamic Terrorism.  So how do we do it?

When I say, "we," I am not referring to the governmental or military level.  That is, of course, THE larger, marco solution.  However, what I am referring to is what we can do at the individual level.  Part of that is dialogue.  David Swan wrote an amazing piece entitled, "Dear Muslims" that I strongly encourage everyone to read.  I have a link to it below in the sources.  I do want to share this one passage from his work:

"We share a common enemy in the radical Islamist. They want to drive us apart and to fear each other. They want your children to grow up hating my children. They want you to believe our way of life is evil and that we must be punished for it. They produce a barrage of internet propaganda aimed at isolating your children from those not like them in an attempt to recruit them to do evil on their behalf. Every terrorist attack against innocent people in this world is an attack against peace and normalcy. It’s designed to stir a violent response from those attacked and create more hatred between 'us and them.'"

His call for the need recognize not only a common enemy but our common cause.  This goes beyond the (I believe) Arabic/Islamic saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."  It states that those who wish to do us harm for their own twisted version of reality want us, need us actually to find enemies where they do not exist.

Does this mean excusing acts of violence?  Not in my book.  Does it mean we not strike back?  No.  If anything we strike back with unyielding force until we've carried the day.  If we're playing basketball, your team and mine should have the same number of players.  If it is a "kinetic" (that's military-talk for killing people and blowing stuff up) contest, then I want every possible advantage.  I want to win. 

But moving away from the battlefield and back to our regular lives, I'd suggest we read and carefully ponder David Swan's words of seeking understanding while reserving the unqualified right of self-defense.  I also think the act of U2 is a way of resisting terror.  When Bono referred to a band I'd never heard of until November 13th as, "...our brothers, our fellow troubadours,..." he did more than share a stage with fellow musicians.  He, and the rest of U2 showed the world that we're all in this together and we are not afraid.  When they all played together, their music drowned out, if only for a few moments, the shrill screams of hate.  

When we see something like this and applaud it, "Like" it, feel the smile forming on our face from it, then we, too, are fighting back.  Terrorism cannot exist when we refuse to succumb to the fear.  

And the best part is- we don't have to be rock stars to make this happen.  
Be well my friends,


Opening photo:


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