[Monday, July 18th: In the interests of accuracy and truth, I must point out that my supposition of bombs being on board that truck in Nice, France is inaccurate. There were no bombs, only a spent grenade and some M16 rifles. My speculation that ISIL might be behind the attack, however, is apparently accurate.]
Yesterday’s post was written before I found out about the truck bomb attack in Nice. Against that backdrop, the point I was making–that listening to classical music can change our hearts and minds for the better–must seem small, indeed.
Except the point is not that small. As Thomas Friedman has written in From Beruit to Jerusalem, in the 1980’s, when Western and Middle Eastern forces were shooting the hell out of Lebanon every day, shopkeepers would desert the streets, make way for the soldiers, and then, hours later, after the shooting stopped, come back out, rearrange their stalls and stands, and do business once again. This happened every day. One would think that that way of life would be unbearable. In the largest sense, it is, but the shopkeepers were making a point of their own.
The point is that life is indomitable. No truck bomb can stop it; no calculated, coordinated series of military-style attacks can change it. Nothing short of nuclear war can wipe it out, but even then, pockets of humanity would remain–somewhere–to rebuild. Yet life does change. We can see the changes all around us. Most of those changes take months, years, decades, and their full effects might not be felt for centuries. The root of all those changes, for good or ill, may be traced, not to the action or inaction of governments; governments are mere forms in society; but to the smaller, daily actions of people in boardrooms, hotel suites, offices, markets, and homes of our cities. It is there that our hatreds and our loves are revealed, and it is there–if it is to be anywhere–that we must change the way we behave.
Those who perpetrated yesterday’s act, those who financed it, must be found and held accountable. I am not confident that they will be found any time soon. The West lacks the resources and the resolve to trace the money that bought the bombs and brought them into France, most likely because that bad money is mixed up with good money in the bank accounts of those we reluctantly call friends.
As Lincoln reminded us during the Civil War, nothing we do must be done in malice; events are too big for that. We must, simultaneously, ask Islam for help in fighting a terrible perversion of Islam itself, and reassure Muslims that the faith the majority of them practice is not the issue. They, in turn, must take a more visible role in the West in that struggle, though they have been reluctant to do so to this point, mostly out of fear of reprisal. Novelist Walter Mosley, in his interview I posted a few days ago, said he regarded ISIL as one, isolated group in the Middle East. He’s wrong about that. They are not so isolated. Whether they were behind yesterday’s attacks or not, the group remains both active on its own and alive as symbolic encouragement to any other anti-West splinter groups that may form. We’re in for a long struggle against such people. Our only hope in that struggle, the only thing the common man and woman can do, in fact, is to live our lives, live as who we are; show ourselves as real people and trust–yes, trust–that the generations of suspicion engendered within the hearts of Islam by the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can, generations hence, be removed, little by little, by the daily actions of those who will live in the twenty-first and twenty-second century.