I am getting old. This manifests itself in many funny little ways, not the least of which is my reaction time on all fronts: physical, emotional, intellectual. After the attacks in Paris on Friday, I needed time to absorb the basic information. It was important to knowwith which lunatics we (as an ex-pat, I feel safe in the use of “we” in matters European) were dealing this time. Was it ISIS or one of her newly spawned twisted sisters? Were the terrorists home-grown or imported? What is their beef this time?
Frankly, I’m getting a little battle weary for knee-jerk symbolic gestures and calls to prayer for peace to be inspired to join the tragic chorus without knowing more facts. My Facebook photo is not sporting the tricolors of France because the people who know me and about whose opinions I care know how I feel about terrorism and empty symbolic gestures.
Saturday, still ruminating on the attacks in Paris, I went to the sauna with my sister-in-law, who, as we were settling down in the earth-sauna opined that this particular terrorist event was scary because “our kids could have been at any of those places”. Joe College and Charlie Brown went to Paris together this summer for the first time without us. I worried about them getting robbed or separated or falling in with a bad crowd, but I did not worry about terrorists for some reason. Silly me. A week after their return, in the same train, a terrorist was taken down by 2 French and 3 American guys about the same age as Joe College before he could do any damage to the other passengers. I know what my sons would have done in the same situation and that frightens me.
Monday morning I spoke to a friend who thinks that the reason for this terrorism comes down to “haves” and “have nots”. She may have a point, however in disagreements between “haves” and “have nots” the pursuit is based purely on material want and not purely nebulous idealism. These jihadists don’t want Europe’s music or food or fashion. They don’t want more money (except to buy arms), they don’t want anything to do with our way of life. In fact, they want to take away our way of life, to make us fear them. Why?
Well, I have a theory about that. My ride is a snazzy little Mini and I try to stick to the speed limit most of the time, which some male (yes they are always male) drivers situated behind me find annoying. Most don’t have rides as cool as mine (sub-zero, ask Clarkson) and their need for speed seems to arise from a feeling of inadequacy—I never checked, but I’m sure most, if not all are under-endowed and have no say at home. Why else would anyone need to drive 80 kph in a 30 kph zone?
The so-called jihadis have no locus of power except for that which they receive from being terrorists. They are disenfranchised losers who lack the intelligence and grit to better themselves any other way than violence. They are like stupid sheep listening to poisonous words which only enhance their conviction of their disadvantage and taking their direction based upon it. They have lost any ability to think and reason. I am weary of trying to understand these people and worn out with worrying.
The last time I worried this much was 1969. Vietnam was being broadcast into our livingroom and at 5 years old, I was sure the Viet-Cong were going to burst through the door any day. The Viet-Cong, which sounded to me a lot like King Kong, who was one badass gorilla, were also “gorillas”. Every morning at school we’d have to pray for the soldiers in Vietnam and at recess we’d discuss how we’d escape if the gorillas ever came knocking at our door.
On the train to Amsterdam the other day, I sat thinking, not really interested in the book I’d brought along for the 2 hour journey. I spent the trip eyeing up my fellow passengers, sizing up their terrorist potential, checking out possible escape routes and finally considering what I’d do if somebody pulled out a gun.
As a teenager, I was a bit of a mall-rat. Spencer Gifts was always a favorite. My friends and I could spend hours looking at the goofy wallposters. I always liked this one:
All things considered, the best way for me to respond to the massacres in Paris last Friday is defiance. I will continue to go about my daily life, travel on airplanes, talk to strangers, enjoy a concert or a sportsmatch…and if somebody pulls a gun I won’t hesitate. If I’m going down, I’d rather go down fighting.