“Je suis Paris” (much like “Je suis Charlie”) means, from French to English, “I am Paris.” I am saying this because my heart is utterly breaking and tears are still streaming down my face as I see my sisters and brothers in France brutally victimized by a warped ideology made material in a series of horrific attacks. The body count is not (thus far) as high as, say, the US’s 2001 World Trade Center attack, but this one is somehow worse because the damage was personal.
There were human beings looking at other human beings in the face and then killing them over ideas.
There were human beings so moved by their fear and hatred and hurt and wounds that they marched on innocent other humans, unrelated to their pain, and opened fire. They blew themselves up with explosives to try to kill other humans at the same time. They held other human beings hostage and made them afraid down to their souls, trying in an animal-level impulse to share the fear that they felt.
In the 9/11 attack, the humans who perpetrated that crime were locked in cockpits, they were separated from the reality of their actions. In Paris, the violence was personal, done by hand, toe-to-toe. Do not take this to imply that I think that the Paris attacks are somehow worse than the 9/11 attacks, but understand that the nature of the violence is different, and yet, they come from the same place.
I would like to share with you a wound of mine that has been bleeding for a long time, and the thoughts that stem from it.
How to Make a Terrorist
What is a terrorist? It is a human who is so deeply affected by fear (terror) that they are inspired to act on that fear through radical and violent means. The fear could come from anywhere: fear of people from other tribes or regions, fear of people who don’t look like them, fear that their religion or ideology is being threatened, fear of other people’s ideology victimizing them… but most of the time, the fear comes from actions committed by humans who fit any of these other categories.
Maybe it was the collateral damage of civilians being killed and maimed while meddling Other Nations were trying to enforce their own ideas on their land (bringing democracy to a region, perhaps?). Maybe it was recognition of the deliberate destabilization of the government infrastructure so that Other Nations could get a hold of their land’s natural resources. Maybe it was the realization that the consumption habits of Other Nations is directly creating global climate destabilization far more than their land ever could have, disproportionately negatively affecting their daily lives. Maybe it’s because they’ve lost a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child to violence that was meant for someone else, over some contrived difference that never impacted their life before that moment, the true meaning of “senseless violence”.
The bottom line is, something happened to a human to make his fear so intense that he/she has to act on it by bringing that level of fear – that terror – to someone else. And how could they imagine that there would be another way to communicate their fear? After all, that’s the language that was used to teach them the fear. The War on Terror is not just a miserable, utter failure, it’s made the problem about a thousand times worse. There was a little Java game right after the 9/11 attacks that illustrated this very well, which I couldn’t find, but Jordan at NecessaryGames.Com made one that drives the same point home: Terrorist Killer. The more “terrorists” you kill, the more you make, because fear is contagious, and intense fear is intensely contagious. It grows, it spreads like a malignant tumor, destroying everything it touches, and it is perpetuated because the first thing that the fear does is de-humanize.
This personal blood-directly-on-hands approach to terrorism that we are tearing our hair and beating our breasts over right now is the same terror that our brothers and sisters in Beirut, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, and countless other places experience every day. This is the true nature of the humanitarian crisis that is gripping not a country or an ethnicity or a religion but our whole goddamned planet. We are only freaking out about this in the news feeds right now because the problem has finally been brought to the Eurocentric field of vision, but it is the same mantra of hate/anger that has been screamed from the muzzles of rifles for years now, and here is the refrain:
Every fucking one of us is culpable, every fucking one of us is responsible.
Culpable = one who has contributed to the creation of a problem or situation.
Responsible = to have the ability to respond.
How to Un-Make a Terrorist
This is the core problem, this is the equation that we have to solve: How do we re-humanize ourselves in their eyes? How do we convince them to re-humanize themselves? How do we remove the pretend lines of segregation, of division, to go back to being a single human race?
There’s the old government response fallback that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”. Have you ever wondered why that was? Because it takes effort to try to understand what a terrorist truly desires. Their vision has been warped by their passion to the point where the thing they think they’re defending isn’t even recognizable anymore. The real reason we don’t negotiate with terrorists is that terrorists aren’t humans in our cultural eye. When someone is labeled a terrorist, they no longer have rights, they no longer have value, and that means that there is nothing they can say that we would be willing to consider. This is where we, as official government organizations, start to fuck it up.
You’ll notice that I have not, thus far, mentioned religion. I do not recognize any of these terrorist organizations or groups as being Muslim, no matter what they call themselves (and experts agree with me) any more than I’d say that the Westboro folks adequately represent Christianity. Can you imagine for a moment, though – and I mean, really try to put yourself into these shoes – what kind of horror must have to befall you to make you cling to your beliefs in such a way that they become nightmare versions of what they’re supposed to be?
This is my default response, to try to figure out how the deep psychological and emotional damage must’ve happened. It is equally possible that certain organizations and individuals are only flying the Muslim or Christian or Whatever flag as a pretense without actually having those religions as their actual motivations – or at least they don’t have a proper understanding of what those ideologies are.
What if we actually started a conversation?
Before we go further, understand that I do not in any way, shape, or form condone or approve of the actions taken. These atrocious acts are the things that we as a species should be forcibly evolving out of.
We do need to roll it back and stop reacting to these actions. Reaction is what they’re already doing, they’re not responding. WE need to respond. WE need to ask ourselves what pain can be salved, what problem can be solved, what sorrow is so great that they must share it with the world. One country does not give two shits about what another country is doing unless it directly affects them – or unless that first country fears that it will directly affect them.
The way to un-make a terrorist is to find their pain and solve it, to give them their humanity back. Yes – fuck yes, please – arrest them, find them, take them into custody, and then… find out what they need. Prove their fears wrong. Give them a good therapist. Feed them well according to their beliefs. Do not allow your pain to blind yourself in the same way that they have already been blinded.
For the love of all the gods, be a human.
It’s All About Paris
This is not just about Paris, and this is completely about Paris, because right now, Paris is the microcosm of the planet. It is the example of what the world looks like to someone else looking in: A tiny nano-fraction of the population acting out in deplorable ways, claiming to be justified by a majority that does not agree, and millions more turning around and saying, “Oh hell no!” A handful of assholes is trying to fuck it up for everyone else, and if we as a planet, as a species, respond with hate and violence, we have validated everything they hate in the first place.
Please, don’t go to war. We’ve already proven that this doesn’t work, and again, it only makes it worse. Seriously, that game I linked up there? Send that to every politician you know. Dare them to play it. Send it to every person who wants to arm themselves and shoot up an enemy.
STOP MAKING HUMANS INTO ENEMIES.
It’s all about Paris if it makes us look at the big picture, at the core problems and underlying inequalities that feed the cycles of violence year after year. Please, fuck yes, make it all about Paris if it leads to making it all about divorcing ourselves from the narrative of fear that has ruled our lives for so long. Change the conversation, change the story we are serving to one of love and compassion.
I’m not saying to turn the other cheek. I’m saying, grab the hand and hold on, make it an embrace. It’s the only way to stop the violence.