Yesterday, July 14, Bastille Day, formally, La fête nationale, a grand national day in France, a truck driver plowed into a crowd of celebrants on the Promenade des Anglais in the southeastern city of Nice. As of this moment of my writing, 84 people have died.
This terrorist attack again has been decried by leaders the world o’er and all people of good will; all praying again for the dead, for the survivors, for their families and friends, for ourselves, for an end to all violence and vengeance.
As I read and listen to responses borne by the media, a resonant chord has been struck again, as in the cases of all (indeed, any one) too many terrorist assaults, in these and similar words: “The terrorists want us to live in fear…change the open way of our living…alter our democratic way of being, sacrificing our liberties for the sake of assuring greater security…destabilize our national economies.”
And usually what follows these or like statements is a call again, in related declarations worded variously, to stand fast in love, for it is greater than hate, which can provoke, perhaps inexorably, a reactionary, soul-stilling, soul-stealing revenge; hope, for it is greater than despair, which can collapse into a nihilism-laden inert state of the senselessness and meaninglessness of life; and faith, for it is greater than the reason-blinding certainty of forces and peoples who, believing their conviction or cause is only true, only right, are able and willing to kill anyone who disagrees.
And, here, in “the reason-blinding certainty of forces and peoples who…are able and willing to kill anyone who disagrees”, is, I think, the point of terrorism. I do not believe that all terrorists of whatever group or faction, being human, though savagely human they are, are any more or less monolithic in their purposes than any other group of persons. Hence, I do not and cannot know what the aim of the killing is. I do know that terrorists of whatever group or faction kill people. In every death, the attack, once launched and over, is a success. Again. All else – our living in fear, our retreat from openness, our alteration of our democratic ways, our economies destabilized – is, metaphorically and literally, collateral damage.
That I think, believe a terrorist arises with the sun intent on killing, which will make that day a good day, is chilling to me beyond the telling. Nevertheless, this day I will continue to live with love, hope, and faith. Again.