observations and opinion
At this hour (20:30 GMT, November 20th) there are news reports that the Belgian Army has been deployed in Brussels. Who knows why? Perhaps to gobble up another cluster of homicidal maniacs. Let us hope so.
Earlier today, we saw news of a hostage standoff in Mali. Armed men – later said to be Islamists – had seized the major western hotel in the capital city of Bamako. The army pushed in, liberated most of the hostages but news reports at this hour (3pm EST) say 27 dead bodies were left behind.
Not long before, the public market in the Nigerian city of Yola, was bombed by Boko Haram, the Islamist movement which has so effectively terrorized that African country. Over thirty people are dead, 80 said to be injured. Gruesome yet small change in the endless war by Boko Haram, which espouses a form of Islam pre-occupied with killing Muslims, enslaving girls and desecrating mosques.
One week ago now, Paris was its usual beautiful quiet self. People had gone out for dinner and were in the Bataclan club as the concert began. We know how that night ended.
We are at war, the French President said later. Indeed. President Hollande identified ISIS as the enemy of France, and it is. ISIS, like the Nazi Party, has cultivated a uniquely awful ideology within the bosom of an ancient culture. ISIS’ cousins Boko Haram, and confreres in Al Qaeda, share in that ideology and in its extraordinarily awful methods.
Our war is not with Islam. Islam is many things and many people. Our war is with those members of Islam who have adopted a genocidal, suicidal creed of apocalypse, and who are now acting out that creed. And they’re really good at it, as we see, again today. Our war is with them and with their enablers, those who fund them, those who house them, those who nurse them. It is a formidable enemy, hatched in what should be the sacred confines of mosques, breeding in the hearts of men, calling upon their worst instincts and most dreadful capacities.
I don’t pray often. But I am inclined to do so now. You might pray for the scores of dead and wounded and those left behind – in Paris, Nigeria and Mali and maybe Belgium tonight. Also, the ones who die tomorrow (and some good soul probably will die tomorrow in this struggle) will deserve prayer too.
But if prayer has any effect at all, we need to aim it where it is most needed. The dead are gone to dust or the hands of God. So my prayer is for us. Not to keep us safe, but to wake us up. Because if we keep sleeping, if we keep dreaming, we are doomed. Doomed at best to a more intrusive state, guarding us against the devil we will not hunt down. Doomed more likely to a life of increasingly higher “acceptable losses” – acceptable because they happen somewhere else, if we are lucky.
We have been sleepwalking into a bloodbath. You would think that the sound of all that gunfire, the burst of explosives or the strangled pathetic cries of the nearly-dead, all that horrific din might break through our dream state, and wake us up. You would think it, but apparently not. So I say a prayer, that we wake up and see the reality we’re so desperate to pretend away.
We are at war. We have been, for a long time. And so far, we are losing.
* * *
Read other entries in The War for Civilization